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Advice to last graduates a lifetime

Unless you're Ann Landers or Dear Abby, handing out advice to people is not going to make you the most popular person in town. Nevertheless, I'd like to pass along some suggestions to the young people graduating from high schools and universities this spring. If you say I'm not qualified to take on an assignment of this magnitude, you're probably right. I've never been asked by Alex Trebek to appear on Jeopardy, and the invitation list to the reception for Queen Elizabeth II when she was in our area recently didn't include my name.

But I've been around a number of years and learned a few lessons about living, some of them the hard way. So, for what it's worth, here are a few pointers offered gratuitously to the members of the Class of 1991. This list has no pearls of wisdom, just some random thoughts that I'd like to think might prove helpful to our leaders of tomorrow.

1. First and foremost, make certain that the field of work you choose is something you really enjoy. Don't settle for a boring job just because it provides a paycheck; a lifetime is an awful thing to waste.

You may not find what you're looking for right away but keep giving it your best shot. Nothing is sadder than an aspiring actor working as a clerk in a putty-knife factory.

2. Be realistic in the assessment of your talents and capabilities. Don't expect to become president of the company in the first few years unless, of course, your dad is chairman of the board.

3. Become involved in community affairs. Join a service club or do some volunteer work for a charitable organization. You'll be helping others and, as an added bonus, you'll meet some awfully nice people.

And speaking of helping others, the late Sam Levenson, a humanitarian, as well as a humorist, said it best:

"The tender, loving care of human beings will never become obsolete. People, even more than things, have to be restored, revived, reclaimed and redeemed and redeemed and redeemed. Never throw out anybody."

4. If you are not a reader now, become one. You will never be alone if you make the acquaintance of Mark Twain, Emily Bronte, William Manchester and a host of other writers of your choice. They will be there to provide you with thousands of hours of enjoyment throughout your lifetime.

5. Do not be afraid to take up an unpopular cause if you feel it is right and just. Be prepared, however, to be called an idealist or a dreamer if you dare suggest that world leaders would make greater strides toward peace if more time were spent at the conference table than in preparing for war.

In the words of President John F. Kennedy, "We have the power to make this the best generation of mankind in the history of the world or to make it the last."

6. Finally, put your trust in God, whoever you think him to be, and you will always have a light to show the way in the darkness. At the same time, respect the right of the non-believer; he, too, is entitled to his opinion.

You might, however, want to pose this question to him: To whom does an atheist attribute the miracle of birth, the glorious spectacle of a sunset over the Gulf or the plaintive calling of a whippoorwill to its mate at twilight?

So hang on to your dreams, young graduates, but work hard to make them become more than dreams. May success and happiness be yours all the days of your lives.

Most of all, may you be blessed with that rare and intangible quality called inner peace. That is something no one can ever take from you.

This is the 100th guest column that Clearwater retiree Frank Barnicle has written for the Times. His first one, published on Jan. 17, 1979, was about an "old geezer of 64 who set out to complete a marathon and did _ in a car."