There was once a young boy who lived in a house on a hill in the east.
Far away on another hill in the west was a house that every morning shone golden window frames. And this boy would desire constantly to see the house with golden window frames, until one day his father gave in and let him go and see it. As the boy knocked on the door, a girl answered him. “Is this the house with the golden window frames?” the boy asked.
“I know of no such thing,” the girl replied. “But if you go back over there you’ll find the house with golden doors,” and she pointed straight to the boy’s house, where the boy gazed in wonder at his shining home.
Good evening students, staff and family. My name is Michael Crosson, and it’s my absolute privilege to stand before you and add a student’s voice to tonight’s prize-giving. It’s not a task I take lightly, and I hope you will be relieved to know that, despite months of thinking, drafting and mutterings over this very speech, it shouldn’t take too long.
Tonight, I think I have a responsibility to provide an insight into the things I’ve learned over 5 years of education at OBHS. After all, you parents have a right to know what we’re really getting out of this school that you send us to, 5 days a week for 40 weeks a year. While I can assure you it's not a waste of time, I would say that the key lessons learned at school came about more in the courtyard than the classroom. So tonight, I’d like to share with you 5 key learnings.
I’ve learnt that figuring out who you are is a funny thing, and watching myself and my mates go through that is an even funnier thing. That journey has ranged from the worrying to the hilarious to the heartwarming. This time in our lives is transitory, full of challenges, strange social occasions and tests. Parents, I hope you’re aware of that, so when we do become inevitably difficult to deal with, know it’s not because we enjoy doing that (most of the time). It's because a lot of us are still trying to figure out where we fit in the world. To those of you sitting here tonight and going through that experience, know that you’re not alone in that and in time you will settle into who you are.
I’ve learnt that being able to question what you actually believe in is so crucial to growing as a person. As a Christian I knew going into a boys school was going to bring its fair share of challenges regarding my beliefs, and sure enough I’ve been questioned, challenged and mocked for these things, even by teachers. And it’s been the best thing for me. If you truly believe in something, and hold it to be true, then don’t be afraid to put that under the microscope. It’s all too easy to stand off and pull others down for putting themselves and their faith out in the open. If that is you tonight, then I would ask you - when was the last time you shared something personal, made yourself vulnerable? Don’t criticise the people who are transparent in their beliefs - try to match them in their transparency.
I’ve learned that when you’re off to hell in a handcart, you don’t hop in and hope someone else will pull the brakes. In recent times it’s seemed like the world is changing rapidly, and a lot of it for the worse. We’re constantly being reminded of crisis after crisis, extinction after extinction and worthy cause after worthy cause to fight for. And within all of this turmoil, I’ve learned that helping rather than hoping that someone else does makes you feel a lot more in control. Now, I know that smarter people than me have tried to stir the nations into revolutionary action, and they’ve failed in that task. But to all you would be leaders out there, if you’re looking for something to do or a change to make, I don’t think there’s a shortage of disasters to help out with. It doesn’t have to be someone special to put their hand on the brakes - but it does have to be someone.
I’ve learnt that the word ‘hope’ is one more reserved for movies and books than real life nowadays, and at a time when we need it more than ever in our lives. Last year I underwent the most gruelling physical challenge of my life on a Duke of Edinburgh tramp in Fiordland. On day 3 of the 4 day trip, Mr Roe thought it would be a great idea to go off track and up a bush-clad hill, which went 1km vertically over 3km horizontally. All in the unbearable Fiordland cold. Two thirds of the way in and I was about ready to pass out and lie down for a quick nap - a tell tale sign of early hypothermia. It was also about then the lads behind me started singing. Yes, singing, in those hellish conditions and with no real energy to spare, they started belting out the tune of Country Roads, minus the tune. To get me moving a mate literally pulled me up, got behind me and started shoving me up the hill, all the while carrying twice the load of anyone else. Hope just needs one person, lads. It’s not pretty and glamorous, but it is necessary when others around you are fading fast, and it's unbelievably contagious given a chance. In times like these, be the person able to give hope to others.
The final lesson I’ve learned is one I strongly believe should stick with us all the way through our lives, be held close to our heart and kept in the forefront of our minds. The lesson is this; take delight in the joy of the ordinary. It’s a funny phrase, isn’t it? The joy of the ordinary. Almost a paradox some would think. But it just happens to be the most powerful tool for growing in contentment. The world wasn’t equipped for a time when all of a sudden individuals were bombarded with snapshots of other people’s perfect lives, or were told to want more, be more and have more. What a destructive attitude and environment for life that is. Just think about how radical it is for someone to take delight in the very world around them: the walk to school, a sunrise over Dunedin Harbour, talking to the same mates you talked to yesterday, and the day before and the day before. There is joy and delight in these things - we’ve just got to stop searching for it in other people’s lives and find the joy already present in our own. That story I shared earlier wasn’t about magical window frames, in case you were wondering. What that boy saw was the rising sun on the girl’s house, and likewise she just saw the setting sun on his own, And all the while they failed to appreciate the beauty they already had.
An American writer was once asked what he thought would happen if the stars came out once in a thousand years, and his response was this:
“No one would sleep that night, of course. The world would become religious overnight. We would be ecstatic, delirious, made rapturous by the glory of God. Instead, the stars come out every night, and we watch television.”
Switch off the screens, lads and parents. Open your eyes to the beauty of our world, and take delight in the joy of the ordinary.