If Not Now?
A charge to the Class of 2014 from the president of the Class of 2004
By Tommy Bresson
Class of 2014, I want to share with you a story that happened just over one year ago that has impacted me immensely. It is my hope that I can share with you one word, and three things that will carry you forward as you enter this next chapter in your life.
Last year I was finishing my fifth and final year of serving at a high school in Germany. It was a very emotional time as I was saying good-bye to staff and students who had become my family. There were some students I had walked side by side with, since they were in 8th grade, and last year they graduated. There was one student in particular, Ryan, who I had grown very close to. He was one of those guys that could always make you laugh, and always surprised you with the depth and tenderness in his character. Following the graduation ceremonies, everyone migrated to a rotunda very similar to the one just outside these doors. Yet, this one was about one-third the size, and we had to fit about five hundred people out there. As you can imagine, it was quite crowded. You were basically confined to trying to waddle past people as you searched for students to offer your congratulations, and say your final good-byes.
In a massive sea of people, I was about 20 feet away from Ryan and we made eye-contact. It was as if we were in a Hollywood movie, because our eyes locked, and even though we were surrounded by people, we managed to walk through the crowds until we were together. I knew this was going to be the last time we would see each other, and as we got within a few feet, I literally stuck out my hand and put my hand on his chest. I looked him in the eye and said, “Not yet Ryan. I’m not ready to say good-bye” He looked back at me and said something that was so simple and innocent, yet has radically impacted me. He said, “If not now, then when?” As soon as he said that, tears started streaming down my face, I looked back at him and said, “You’re right. We need to do this now.” He gave me a massive hug, we exchanged a few more words, and we had to say a very hard, and tearful good-bye.
Though a very sad memory, his words, “if not now, then when?” Have truly stuck with me. It’s that very same question, I want to ask you today. “if not now, when?”
Now is the time of your graduation. You are mere moments away from getting your diploma, from throwing your cap in the air, and walking out of here as a graduate. It is happening now.
Now. Now is the time you are leaving and beginning a new chapter. A new adventure. A new beginning. Now is your time.
Parents. Now is also the time for you to see them off. Your job isn’t over, but now you must help them move to the next chapter. Trust me, for as long as they have been at PCA, they have been in great hands. These teachers have cared for them, encouraged them, and loved them immensely.
Graduates, now is the time for you to take your next steps. As you do, I want to leave you with an acronym for the word now that will hopefully journey with you.
These past four years for you have given you a plethora of memories and experiences. Some are good, others may not be as good. Either way, they are moments that you walked through, that helped shape and mold you into who you are today. Never forget the lessons you have learned.
Never forget the friendships you have made. The friends you have sat next to in Madame’s French class for the past four years, the laughter you shared with friends in the senior lounge, the memories you shared as you competed on the soccer field, or basketball court.
Never forget the lessons taught to you by your teachers. Over the past four years you may have felt like they were more your enemy than your allies – but you will one day understand how much they have cared for you, prayed for you, and poured out to help you succeed.
Never forget that God has been with you throughout these past four years, and he promises that he will continue to be with you throughout the rest of your life.
While graduation marks a time where conversations are constantly about the future… what school are you going to? What are you going to major in? What dorm are you going to live in? Among the flood of questions and thoughts about the future, don’t forget to take a few moments and think about everything that has brought you to this point.
Never forget what you have learned here.
The “O” in NOW is for Opportunities.
As you look around at your classmates, this group will soon be spread out across the globe. Some will be attending large universities that have thousands of students, in the middle of a major city. Others of you may find yourself in a small school surrounded by corn fields. Regardless of where you are headed, you are about to enter a time of your life that is flooded with opportunities and possibilities. Now is the time to take advantage of all those opportunities and explore.
As I sat where you are ten years ago, I knew in my mind I was headed to Grove City, Pennsylvania. I had no idea that the school would prove to be a stepping stone that would launch me overseas and provide me the opportunity to visit over 20 countries in three different continents.
As you move on from PCA, I encourage you to take advantage of the different opportunities that are going to come your way. Go out and explore the world in which God has created. Take advantage of what comes before you and explore.
There are opportunities that are to be had, I challenge you to take advantage of them.
Walk with the Lord.
As you take advantage of the many opportunities that are going to come your way, make sure to walk closely with the Lord. This world is in need of Christ’s love. Our culture is desperately needing men and women who are going to stand up for Jesus Christ and impact their world for God’s kingdom. Now is not a time to give the world a try. Now is the time to give Jesus to the world.
I want to go back to my friend Ryan’s question, “if not now, when?” If you are not going to walk with the Lord now, when are you going to? There will be a lot of temptations that come across your path. There will be new adventures and new opportunities that look like they are wide and lead to a life of fulfillment, yet they lead down a road of destruction.
As I think about the word walk, I think it is extremely fitting for two reasons – one is that it is an active thing, and it takes you from one place to another. When you think about walking with someone, you are walking side by side with them. You are spending time together. You are in conversation, you are in their presence. You are listening to them, and talking to them. You are with them. It is also an active thing, walking takes you from one place to the next. Additionally, walking is a visible thing. Those around you will be able to tell that you are walking, and not sitting still. In the same way, I hope that those around you are able to tell that you are walking with the Lord. May they be able to tell that you are spending time with Jesus, and that you are making a difference and people are taking note of that.
Now is your time.
Walk with the Lord.
I want to close with one more story, and I want to leave you with a challenge that comes from that story. As was mentioned I have fallen in love with running. In my opinion, there isn’t a bad time to go out for a run, and there isn’t bad weather for a run.
A year and a half ago, I was training for a marathon, but was also coaching basketball. Due to the demands of coaching, it was hard for me to get a run in in the evening after practice. Therefore, it became common for me to get my run in first thing in the morning.
One morning, it was before 7:00 am that I took off. It was winter, so it was still a little dark, yet as I was getting to my running trail I could see we had gotten a fresh dusting of snow overnight. As I’m starting my run through the trail I started to realize that I was the first person to be on the trail for the morning. How could I tell? My footprints. I was leaving footprints in the snow and as I was running I noticed there were no other footprints on the trail.
It was a pretty interesting feeling to be putting down the first footprints of the day. I ran 4 miles in one direction, then turned around and came back on the same path. I again noticed my footprints and started wondering what kind of story they would tell for those who would come after me.
Would someone be able to tell what kind of shoes I was wearing?
Would somebody be able to tell I was running and not walking by the length of my stride?
If they could, would they be impressed at my speed or would they think I was going really slow?
After these thoughts, my mind began going into a different question and my heart was pounded by the question: in my life, what kind of footprint am I leaving behind?
What kind of mark am I leaving behind?
What can people tell about the way I lived, or the condition of my heart, based upon the footprint I leave behind.
Are the footprints of my life, that I am leaving behind, pointing people to Christ, and making a difference in this world for his kingdom?
What story does our footprint tell?
What are your footprints saying about you? In one sense, you can answer that now, as you graduate from high school. This chapter in your life is now closing. As you look back on the past four years, what kind of a footprint did you leave? Were you a senior who was known for helping out the underclassmen? Or were you a senior who struck fear into the underclassmen? Do your classmates think you were more concerned about your appearance, than your character? Over the past four years, what kind of footprint are you leaving behind?
I don’t want to discourage you with those questions, rather, I want to encourage you.
Because, in just a few minutes, you will throw your cap in the air and you will graduate. As you do, you will be given a fresh powder of snow in which to make a new footprint. A new opportunity to leave a footprint that truly matters.
As you look forward, now is your time to make a new footprint.
Take advantage of the opportunities
Walk with the Lord.
As you do those things, my challenge and my prayer, is that you will leave a footprint in the hearts of the people you come in touch with, that leads them to Christ.
It is always a special occasion when a PCA alumnus returns home. This past year, the graduating class of 2014 was blessed to have Tommy Bresson, Class of 2004, as its commencement speaker.
Tommy excelled as both a leader and athlete while attending PCA. He was named All-state in soccer and basketball and captained both teams during his time at PCA. He culminated his Upper School career by being elected class president and was also awarded the prestigious Eagle Award.
Tommy attended Grove City College where he excelled at soccer, captaining his college team. He graduated in 2008 with a BA in History and a minor in Christian Ministry. During that time, he spent two years involved in international ministry using his soccer skills to engage others with the Gospel message.
After graduation in 2008, he accepted a resident assistant position at the Black Forest Academy in Germany and spent five years ministering to students from mostly missionary families. He coached soccer and basketball, was the junior class advisor, and was a guidance counselor.
His work visa having expired, he recently returned home and took a position at Eden Christian School in the Pittsburg area where he teaches Bible and history, and coaches soccer, basketball and cross-country. Tommy has also completed eight marathons. It was his long-distance running experience that inspired Tommy to write and publish his first book, Running Through Life: Reflections from 26.2 Miles.