A prayer for seizing opportunity

Students line up outside Joseph Pennell Elementary on the first day of school. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Students line up outside Joseph Pennell Elementary on the first day of school. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

As our Philadelphia students start a new school year, I know they feel like they have all the time in the world to fulfill their dreams. But I have three words for them: Life is short.

That’s why our students must squeeze every ounce of joy out of each minute they get. They must celebrate every success as if it is their greatest. They must know there will be more if they can just make it through the next challenge.

Life is short.

That’s why our students must play to win, knowing that sometimes they won’t, believing that even if they don’t, there are victories in every experience. In losing we learn how to try harder. In losing we learn how to reach higher. In losing we learn preparation. There is loss on the road to triumph.

That is a lesson our children must learn. That is a lesson they must internalize. That is a lesson I wish had been taught to 24-year-old David Katz, the man police believe shot and killed two people before turning the gun on himself after losing in a video gaming tournament.

Had someone taught Katz that there are lessons in losing, that there is victory in struggle, that there is no one who is entitled to winning in every endeavor, maybe things would have turned out differently. Maybe those two people would still be alive. Maybe Katz would have lived to play another day. But in taking the action he did, he proved one thing to all of us.

Life is short.

And in a world where a game of Madden ends with gunshots, where teenagers kill peers who are going off to college, where 14-year-olds die from stray bullets, I have a few words of advice for our students. Be aware and be watchful. But more than that, be grateful.

Gratitude will allow you to live every minute as if it is your first, and to cherish every hour like it could just be your last.

Be grateful for your friends and don’t lose them in petty arguments. Be grateful that your parents love you enough to give instruction. Be grateful for the teachers who are trying to give you lessons.  Be grateful for the time that you are given on this earth.

Because as much as youth makes us feel like we have all the time in the world, life is short.

There’ll be times when you feel like you’re on top of the world, and times when you’ll feel like the sky is falling. There’ll be times when your heart will be filled to overflowing, and times when your heart will break in two. But if you just keep living, and pushing, and dreaming, and striving, success is on the other side of struggle.

I pray this year will allow our students to experience all that will prepare them to succeed. And when they reach their dreams, I hope that they will reach back to help someone else, because life is short, and we don’t have a minute to waste.

You can hear Solomon Jones weekdays from 10 a.m. to noon on Praise 107.9 FM.

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