On Tuesday, December 1st I graduated from the 9-month intensive Residential Drug Abuse Program, also known as RDAP. The program consisted of drug and alcohol treatment for five days a week for nine straight months. At times it really dragged on, especially during the Texas summer months, and seemed very similar to the 5th grade DARE program many schools use. But other days the time moved quickly. It was a program on bettering one’s life, and making positive changes in it. Overall, it was a good program and something I was glad to be part of. A few weeks before graduation I was asked to be a speaker at the graduation program and it didn’t take long for me to accept the honor. This blog is my speech given on that day.
Good afternoon, community and guests. I want to thank you all for selecting me to speak on behalf of the 2015 RDAP graduating class. It is quite an honor. I want to begin by reading a short story called All the Difference in the World. The story goes as follows:
Every Sunday morning I take a light jog around a park near my home. There’s a lake located in one corner of the park. Each time I jog by this lake I see the same elderly woman sitting at the water’s edge with a small metal cage sitting beside her. This past Sunday my curiosity got the best of me, so I stopped jogging and walked over to her. As I got closer, I realized that the metal cage was a small trap. There were three turtles, unharmed, slowly walking around the base of the trap. She had a fourth turtle in her lap that she was carefully scrubbing with a spongy brush.
“Hello” I said,” I see you here every Sunday morning. If you don’t mind my nosiness, I’d love to know what you’re doing with these turtles.” She smiled. “I’m cleaning off their shells,” she replied. “Anything on a turtle’s shell, like algae or scum, reduces the turtle’s ability to absorb heat and impedes its ability to swim. It can also corrode and weaken the shell over time.
“WOW! That’s really nice” I explained. She went on and said, “I spend a couple of hours each Sunday morning, relaxing by this lake and helping these little guys out. It’s my own way of making a difference.”
“But don’t most freshwater turtles live their whole lives with algae and scum hanging from their shells?” I asked. ” Yes, sadly they do,” she replied.
I scratched my head. “Well then, don’t you think your time could be better spent? I mean, I think your efforts are kind and all, but there are fresh water turtles living in lakes all around the world. And 99% of these turtles don’t have kind people like you to help them clean off their shells. So, no offense…but how exactly are your localized efforts here truly making a difference?” The woman giggled aloud. She then looked down at the turtle in her lap, scrubbed off the last piece of algae from its shell and said, “Well, if this little guy could talk, he’d tell you I just made all the difference in the world.”
We stand here today on the verge of the future. It’s not a distant reality anymore. It begins here. It begins today. We began this RDAP program as troubled individuals, but we’re leaving as changed men. We’ve completed this program that will serve as the platform we use to launch ourselves into our futures. Some of us will eventually to into the work force; others will pursue their college dreams, and some will even own their own business, but each of us will travel our own path.
No matter where we go or what we do, there are challenges ahead of us. What I’m asking from each of you, and from myself, is to meet those challenges straight on with your head held high and your heart wide open. It’s not enough to simply try to get by in life…. that doesn’t move the world forward. You must try to excel in everything you do; strive for excellence in every task, large or small.
When I was younger and very ambitious, my goal was to make a difference in the world, and if not the world, at least the small community of people I was a part of. Unfortunately, I decided to go down the wrong path and made some bad choices. As I stand here today after 9 months of RDAP I realize the only thing I can change is myself. I realize that if long ago I had worked on changing myself, I could have made an impact on everyone in my sphere of influence.
Although it may not be easy to see, every accomplishment you achieve is added to the world’s accomplishments. Your individual successes benefit society as a whole because when you succeed you lighten the burden on others. When you succeed you are in a position to give rather than take. To make a positive change requires lasting commitment; lasting commitment requires goals, goals require action. Action requires a positive attitude to change your life, and the option to change your life requires work. It all boils down to doing what you can with what you have and where you are, and a difference will be made. People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.
Imagine if every individual lived up to his or her own potential. Think about how amazing that would be, and how much better the world would be. Now imagine if just half of those individuals lived up to their potential, then the world would still be an awesome place. If even a quarter of those individuals worked to make their lives successful, they could still make amazing contributions to society. As I look around at all of us here, we may not have the power to change the entire world, but we do have the power to try to achieve it for ourselves. My challenge to each of you is to do all that you can to reach your full potential. If each one of us did that, just imagine the effect that would have. The future is truly in our hands, so let’s make the most of it. You can change your part of the world for the better, just as the woman in the story did for a few turtles.
In conclusion, Jeremiah 29:11 says it best “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you; plans to give you a hope and a future.”
May God continue to bless each of you in your life journey. Thank you and congratulations.