My favorite television show is The West Wing.
In it, Josiah Bartlet – the fictional president of the United States played by Martin Sheen – has a tendency to move quickly from one task to the next, signaling his desire to do so with two words:
These words are fitting as I’m sure those, like myself, who are graduating on Saturday have found themselves asking this same question. And, if we haven’t, others have. I can’t even go to the grocery store at home without running into someone I know, let alone having them ask me, “Oh, I heard you graduate in December! What lies ahead?”
I recently met with one of my professors to discuss this question: What IS next after the culmination of this 3.5-year journey?
“What do I do?” I said to him, nervously. “‘I think I want to do this, but it makes more sense for me to do this, but at the same time I also REALLY like doing this – Help!”
He leaned back and listened, thought for a second, and leaned forward, imploring me to take a deep breath.
“Trust yourself,” he said. “Serendipity will play a role in what comes next.”
At that moment, I realized he was right. And, then I laughed – because, in hindsight, serendipity – defined as “the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way” – is what brought me to Dr. Denny Wilkins’ office in the first place.
My grandfather passed away on Jan. 26, 2015. Papa, as I called him, was my first best friend.
He briefly attended college on a basketball scholarship at the University at Buffalo. But, when tragedy struck in his family, he went back home help run the family business he would later inherit.
Concurrently – his high school basketball rival, Carl Saglimben, had come here to play basketball for Eddie Melvin and Eddie Donovan. After graduating from Bona’s, "Sag" taught and coached at Hinsdale Central School, eventually becoming the district's superintendent. When he retired in the early 1990s, he moved to North Port, Florida.
It was there that serendipity first showed her face.
After 40 years, the two men reconnected not as opponents on a basketball court but as friends in the community pool. "Sag" became Papa’s best friend and vice versa.
Fast forward to Papa’s funeral. For the first time in over 10 years, I reconnected with "Sag" and his wife. At the reception, he pulled me aside:
“Where are you going to school next year?” he asked.
I responded, “Syracuse, hopeful---”
“Wrong!” he interrupted. “Throw that out. You want to look at St. Bonaventure.”
What he didn’t realize at the time was that St. Bonaventure hadn’t even made my list. I told him I wanted a big school with big opportunities far away from home.
“You’ll reconsider,” he said.
Eleven months later, I received a rejection letter from that big school and those big opportunities. And, though that occurrence of events had me far from happy and seriously doubting that a situation of benefit would show its face, my sports journalism mentor had me join him on a trip here to cover our high school basketball team in a tournament at the Reilly Center.
From the moment I walked on campus, I felt at home.
Two weeks later, I sat in Dr. Wilkins’ office as he told me about the young sports writer grad working for the New York Post, the journalism professor next door who invented a faux Japanese hockey player, and took me downstairs to see the broadcast studio.
A week later – 364 days after my grandfather had passed – I was accepted into Bonaventure.
"Sag" was right. And, serendipity had shown her face once again.
She continued to – putting me on the first floor of Robinson Hall with those who would turn out to be my best friends – and meeting so many more along the way; landing me in a World Music class that first exposed me to lecturer-in-music, Laura Peterson, who would, a semester later, forge a campaign for me to add a major in music because "It’ll be EASY for you!;" and, befriending the uncle of an alum, a native of my hometown, who didn’t think twice about buying my plane ticket to Dallas so that I could cover the St. Bonaventure men's basketball team in the NCAA Tournament.
And, that still doesn’t scratch the surface.
I'm sure I could guess what a lot of my fellow graduates are thinking – they're excited to be done, but nervous at the thought of what happens after this day. For some of them, that’s graduate school, for others that’s the armed services and for others, it’s right off to work.
But I urge them to remain steadfast in trusting themselves, trusting their instincts, trusting the people around them and trusting the fact that we will end up where we need to be.
It was one of this community’s most enlightened members who once wrote:
“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end…. But I believe that the desire to please you does, in fact, please you… I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”
Thomas Merton was just as confused as we are now – and while that passage reads as a profession of his faith in God, most of all, it reads as faith in himself.
That faith in ourselves and in our brothers and sisters, paired with allowing serendipity to appear in our lives, will allow us to continue on our "Good Journey."
And so, we move forward.
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