I recently heard a pastor share a commencement speech by author Stephen King from 2001. It was surprisingly moving. I usually associate King with horror stories, sometimes involving killer-clown-spiders and zombie pets. However, in his address to the Vassar College graduates, he was refreshingly spiritual and admonished the students to make their lives ‘one long gift to others.’
Here are some highlights (emphasis added):
“We all know that life is ephemeral…..We come in naked and broke. We may be dressed up when we go out, but we’re just as broke. Warren Buffett? Going to go out broke. Bill Gates? Going to go out broke. Tom Hanks? Going out broke. Steve King? Broke. Not a crying dime.
No matter how large your bank account, no matter how many credit cards you own, sooner or later things will begin to go wrong with the only three things that you can really call your own: your body, your spirit and your mind. We have enormous resources in this country–resources you yourselves will soon command–but they are only yours on loan. Only yours to give for a short while. You’ll die broke. In the end, it’s the blink of an eye. I came here to talk about charity, and I want you to think about it on a large scale. I want you to consider making your lives one long gift to others, and why not?
All you have is on loan, anyway.
All that lasts is what you pass on. The rest is smoke and mirrors.
Giving isn’t about the receiver or the gift but the giver. It’s for the giver. One doesn’t open one’s wallet to improve the world, although it’s nice when that happens; one does it to improve one’s self…I give because it’s the only concrete way I have of saying that I’m glad to be alive and that I can earn my daily bread doing what I love. Giving is a way of taking the focus off the money we make and putting it back where it belongs–on the lives we lead, the families we raise, the communities which nurture us.
Right now we have the power to do great good for others and for ourselves. So I ask you to begin the next great phase of your life by giving, and to continue as you begin. I think you’ll find in the end that you got far more than you ever had, and did more good than you ever dreamed.”