Bring Them Up

Tip More, Boldly

The following is my graduation charge to the class of 2024 at ECS.

Good evening to our graduate candidates, their parents and families, Headmaster and school board and faculty, and guests.

ECS is less than a week from finishing our 12th year. Two of you have been here all twelve years (you are the majority of Muckle Eejits); only a few of the current juniors will be able to say by the time they’re done that they were here longer. It certainly seems like all four of you belong here, and it seems hard to imagine what it will be like next week without you all.

We are all here tonight because you have completed the work we asked you to do. You have read the pages, written the papers, sang your parts. And all of that is just a small portion of what you’ve accomplished.

As we celebrate what you’ve finished, my final charge to you before you move your tassels is to tip more, boldly.

Tip is the key word. I don’t mean tip as in give an extra 20% or 30% on top of the bill, though I do believe in generous gratuities. I definitely don’t mean tip in terms of giving little simplistic life-hacks; we could all use less of those tips. When I say — tip more, boldly — I mean, don’t leave whatever room you enter the way it was. Think of a Saint Bernard running into a tiny kitchen and stepping on the water bowl; you can’t ignore that.

Make a dent. Leave a mark. Tip the status quo over, and over.

This is not the same thing as destroying the good, but don’t hold back when you see how to make something better. Go ahead, poke holes in superficial stuff.

Here’s an example from your senior year. Together you all turned the school’s annual Reformation Day into Reformation week. Not only that, you added the school at home day and called the raggants to regroup for most of a Friday at a property 45 minutes away. You saw what had been done in previous years and thought that you could try something different, something bigger.

While a lot of that project was enjoyable, edible, and edifying, it was exhausting. Come to think of it, it probably was too much. Your ideas helped to clarify ideas from staff and teachers that, as it turns out, one day is actually enough, and keeping the costumes and competitions, the booths and bonfires on campus is a reasonable restraint. I don’t know how many more opportunities you’ll have like that. It gets harder to risk things as you get older. But, go ahead, and make people dial you back. Do things that make others write policies after you. Make them realize that they could do more, more is possible.

Tip more, boldly.

We could use some more people with ideas. An idea in this sense is different than opinions about how other people should do something, or stop doing something, or do what they’re doing differently. Ideas are thoughts about a course of action, an aim to make something, to do some good for others.

In the movie “The Darkest Hour” there’s a scene that tickles me where two old men are walking through government halls fretting about Winston Churchill as the newly appointed Prime Minister.

First man: “He’s an actor, in love with the sound of his own voice.”
Second man: “I love to listen to him. But we must never take his advice. He has a hundred ideas a day, four of them are good, the other ninety-six downright dangerous.”

But without endorsing everything he did, Churchill had conviction, which was crucial 80 years ago during WWII. All of you stood at Point Du Hoc together; you walked on the beaches in France. We remember the men. And we remember D-Day as one of the tipping points in world history and certainly for western civilization. Graduates, go ahead and have some more ideas with conviction.

I have been referring to this year at ECS as the Year of the Raggant. It didn’t take off in all the ways I hoped it would, but, one of the things that did not disappoint was how all of you acted like raggants. As seniors, you were an elite rumpus within the rumpus, making noise and causing commotion for the benefit of us all.

We talk about six characteristics of a raggant. We didn’t write them with you in mind, but top to bottom as a class you have modeled them the best so far.

Stout image-bearers, not stepping lightly like kittens, but with meaty paws like lions. Seniors, you have refined your rhetoric of roar and reflected a God who cares as you have cared.

Generous disciples of Christ, and here where it would be fine for you to leave big tips, as well as to cause big tips. But you have been generous with your time to hang out with underclassmen, to decorate for events, to give yourselves to others in Jesus’ name.

Copious producers, which you have done, not just in writing parodies about copious production. Go ahead, keep making baskets heavy, and write big books, annoy others that you know so much that it took so many pages and they just couldn’t put it down.

Prodigious learners, because we don’t always know what the next thing to tip is going to be, or even where the pressure point is. I want to come back to this in a moment.

Thankful stewards, and this has been a big part of why you’ve made such an impact, as Mr. Sarr noted in his comments. You’ve done your work with gratefulness, not grumbling. You’ve probably been given more things because it was more fun to do so.

And jovial warriors, laughing so that the other tables get mad, they’re bored and they’re made uncomfortable because you’re having such a great time. This isn’t being cheerful as a way to ignore problems, it’s being cheerful as you address them.

As I’ve considered your quad-rumpus, for all your ideas and big plans and finished projects, what really stands out, looking back, is that while you are not easily tip-able, all of you have been teachable. Mr. Sarr pointed out that your thankfulness has been evident, and teachability is like open hands to thankful’s overflowing heart.

You have been teachable, and so you are teaching others. You have received, and so you have things to give. You have listened, and so you have things to think about and more substance to your own thoughts. Even up to yesterday, you were seeking wisdom and willing to update your ideas.

Those who would be great leaders must know how to be ready listeners, eager learners, prompt followers. Those who would advance Christ-honoring culture must not only not reject it, but take the handoff. Your class has killed it in terms of impact on younger students and even on the faculty, because you never acted like you were being held back.

God has blessed you because of that, blessed you with hard-earned unity as a class as well as with deep influence on the school.

Go into every room, not like you own the place, but like you know the Lord who does. You are raggants. You are part of the rumpus. Be teachaBOLD. Tip more, boldly.

“Lives and generations and history are there for the tipping. You have hands. You have words. You have something. Touch the scales. Touch the least of these.”

—N.D. Wilson, Death by Living, 145

Turn the world upside down (Acts 17:6). Don’t leave it the same, you have not left ECS the same.