Deanna Beckner – Reflections on the Journey, Baccalaureate 2015

Deanna BecknerThank you for coming today. It’s nice to see everyone on this joyous day of graduation.

I’d like to begin by telling you one of my memorable experiences from my time abroad in a giant, warm country called … Ireland. Okay, so it’s neither giant nor warm, but I loved it all the same. I studied abroad there last spring and learned more than I could’ve imagined both about the culture and about myself.

While trying to get involved on campus over there, I discovered they had an Ultimate Frisbee team. After enjoying playing Frisbee so much at Manchester and hoping to make some friends, I signed up and began going to practices. Eventually, I made it to a tournament. We woke up early, and a few of us who didn’t have cars caught the bus to the outskirts of Dublin.

We started out warming up as a team and then began playing other teams. Our first game went pretty well other than the usual Irish wind that like to send discs in every direction. But as the day progressed, it began to rain, and the wind got stronger. Teammates were swapping coats and huddling together to stay warm. I was wearing a black jacket over my green shirt, but the last team we were playing was wearing dark colors, so in the middle of the game, I was to remove my jacket.

Well, that was not a good thing. I was only wearing a T-shirt underneath. And then, all of a sudden … it began to hail. We ducked on the field where we were and tried to take cover as much as we could. As I had still been playing when it began to hail, I was still without my jacket and simply had the short sleeves of my T-shirt to protect my arms. Mere moments later, a player from the other team, seeing my flustered and cold state, came over to me and wrapped her arm around me for protection. We talked briefly as we huddled there, introducing ourselves and sympathizing about the Irish weather. Her act of kindness was greatly appreciated, and it’s something I’ll never forget.

As I was reflecting on this memory, I thought about how it was kind of a metaphor or representation for college in general for me. Countless (and I mean countless) nights of studying in the Chapel until the calmest hours of the morning often occurred all too frequently. (I’m sure Walt can help attest to that as we sometimes exchanged morning greetings after long nights). But that was all a part of my college experience, and I don’t regret working hard trying to balance everything.

Yet amidst all of the stressful cold weather that I created for myself at school, I have developed so many friendships that helped me to push through those long nights and busy days. I’ve had several friends whom I admire and have striven to be more like. There have been people there along the way to put their arm around me when I was struggling. God has certainly blessed me with an excellent school and incredible friends. Walt, campus pastor and boss, has been a constant mentor, and I greatly appreciate all that he has done and all of the patience he’s given me when I make mistakes. 

Though this time in college is nearing an end, I know that life continues to provide opportunities to learn. I wish for all of you that you seize those opportunities. Learn from people who are different than you. Learn from the people who know you the best. Learn from your mistakes. Take the time to learn about topics that interest you, and so forth.

Though it may be difficult for some of us to think of learning as a blessing after studying hard for finals, may you find excitement in better understanding things, including yourself. I’ve certainly learned a myriad of things these last four years, like how to throw a forehand in Frisbee, how to carry four things at once to get food to the lunch table, how to stretch my dry-erase marker capabilities, how to be more open-minded, logos can’t sell fish, how to peel an orange with my teeth, and so much more. I’ve learned more about my faith and genuinely hope to continue that growth.

God is a pillar of truth who I know I can turn to, and I believe God to be the best thing ever.  My work with campus ministry and even just conversations with people have strengthened my faith and stretched me to consider more. I thank God for more than I could ever imagine and believe that the world becomes a better place as we share the love and live out our faith.    

But with all of this learning, came a lot of help along the way. I’d like to thank all of the professors and other staff that work at Manchester. I’ve certainly gained new perspectives from you and always appreciated your kindness. You are part of the heart of Manchester and put so much effort into what you do. I’d like to thank my family and friends because I just wouldn’t be who I am today without you. I thank you for your forgiveness, patience, generosity, support, and love.

I’d also like to thank alumni for leaving your mark on Manchester and for supporting the school in multiple ways. Thank you.  Though the school continues to change, we share this commonality of attending Manchester that helps connect us in our differences but also in our similarities.

And to everyone else, I thank you for your contributions and your presence here today. I know many of you have expressed your support for one or all of us here, and I appreciate all that you’ve done.

I’d like to conclude with some final thoughts. Don’t doubt your self-worth – we are all capable of so much, enjoy life – don’t let it just pass by, thank people, forgive yourself and others, pace yourself, take time for relationships, give, listen, and finally, (some wise words from 1 Corinthians 16:14) “…do everything with love.” Best wishes to you, Class of 2015, and everyone.

Thank you.

May 17, 2015

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