It’s a busy season.  Easter is around the corner and end of school activities are in full swing.  Graduation is quickly approaching.

I watch our kids come and go and their schedules are on fast forward.  No doubt, the end of school is catching some off guard as they quickly realize they should have tried harder and studied more.

What do you tell these guys and gals as they wind up another school year?  For some, graduation is a blunt reality they will now longer return to their old familiar schools come August.  Suddenly, it’s out into the world trying to figure out, “What do I do next?” Hopefully, as parents, teachers and coaches we have laid down some kind of foundation that will take them to the next level.

They certainly are growing up in a world very different from the one I grew up in.  Even though I have only been away from teaching for 10 years these kids are dealing with things I never had to think about. How could I possibly advise them and give them words to chew on?

First, I would say “go slow.” Think it over and look at it from all angles.  Don’t rush into anything, be it school, job, family, relationships or an unexpected move.  All of these are good things but take a minute and ask yourself what your heart is telling you to do. Pray about it.

Next, I might advise to never be afraid to say no.  If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.  Follow your heart. If your heart isn’t in it that might be indicative it needs more thought.  You don’t have to please anyone, but you; and you are the person you have to face in the mirror each morning.  Your friends may or may not care or understand what you see. 

I would tell them they have value.  God doesn’t make junk.  He gave you special talents with “you” in mind.  What you do is important.  You have a contribution to make. Look around and make a difference. God never said the way would be easy, but he does promise it will be worth it and he gave you everything you need to make it happen. 

Learn to listen.  Put down the phone, the iPad, all the technology and look at people and “listen.”  There is a world of information out there and wisdom is of utmost importance, but you have to listen. 

Shut off the music, take out the ear buds and hear what is happening in your world. There is a huge difference in hearing and listening.  I hear the train go by my house each day, but I rarely “listen” to it.  It is repeated sound I hear every day, but I don’t listen to it. Your concept of the world comes from listening.  You hear your music, you hear your parents, you hear your friends but are you really listening to them?

Learn a trade.  College is good but learn to use a lug wrench, balance a checkbook, use the washing machine, check the oil, speak and to be understood. Learn a trade in case college isn’t your cup of tea.  The world is in need of people who know how to use their hands and can figure out the solutions to simple problems.

Finally, don’t be afraid. Ask others to help you find the answers.  Let someone know your struggle.  Ask for help. There is no shame in not knowing.  It’s okay to ask for help. 

There are lots of kids headed out in the world in the coming months.  They all have potential and they will do a good job.  Love them, depend on them, teach them and trust that God will continue to direct their steps.  They are our future and I’m proud of every single one. 

The world beckons.  Go make a difference.

Melinda Clements is an E-T community columnist. She can be reached at melinda_clements@centurylink.net.