Sam Smith offers lessons and ‘NCIS’ tips for PCS graduates

PUNXSUTAWNEY — “What is education?” was the question asked by state Rep. Sam Smith, the speaker for the Punxsutawney Christian School’s 2012 commencement, which was held Friday at the First United Methodist Church.

PCS’ three graduates were Caleb Thomas Fugate, Lindsey Ann Reed and Jesse Michael Venturini.

Smith cited several definitions for education: “Ronald Reagan said, ‘Education is not the means of showing people how to get what they want. Education is an exercise by means of which enough men, it is hoped, will learn to want what is worth having.’

“So as we celebrate your high school education, as good as it may be, you are not done,” he said. “You will hopefully, never be done.”
Smith said, education is, in fact, living.

“Knowing each day there is more to learn,” Smith said, adding that he loves detective shows and especially “NCIS,” in which Leroy Gibbs (played by Mark Harmon) has a series of rules that he lives by:

• First, be careful on how you judge people: “It’s been my view that, to some degree we set our own standard of judgement by God,” Smith said. “I base that thought on the line in the Lord’s Prayer, ‘Forgive us our debts, as we have also forgiven our debtors.’” – Matthew 6:12.

He said in other words, if you judge harshly, you will be judged harshly.
“If you judge wisely, you will be judged wisely,” Smith said, adding that when you apply this thought to everyday life, it keeps you from jumping to conclusions and from gossip.

Smith said it also keeps you from thinking or projecting that you are better than someone else.

“It helps you understand how or why someone else does what they do,” he said. “By the standard you judge, you will be judged. Be careful how you judge others.”

• Second, be patient, you can wait.

“When I was 12 or 13, our neighbor used to stop by on Saturday mornings to shoot the breeze with my father and asked me what I was up to,” Smith said, adding that he told him that he couldn’t wait to turn 16 so he could start driving.

Smith said the man responded to him and said: “You spend all your life looking forward to something, and pretty soon, you don’t have anything to look forward to.”

“I gave that some thought and realized that what he meant was that if we are always looking forward to something a few years down the road, we miss what is going on today,” he said. “The Bible is full of stories of patience: Noah waiting to get out of the ark. (Genesis 8: 6-16); and Jacob working an extra seven years for Rachel (Genesis 29: 20-28).
“Throughout Exodus, there are stories of the patience Moses had,” Smith said. “Be patient; you can wait.”

• Third, don’t ask why, ask how.

“As you encounter the challenges of a summer job, college life or just those exchanges within the family, especially when things are not going well, it is easy to ask, ‘Why me?’” Smith said.

“Whatever the problems, the challenges in life and the sufferings, don’t ask why, ask God how, and learn the lessons of life,” he said. “There’s a saying that the person who doesn’t make mistakes is the person who doesn’t do anything.”

Smith said today, the graduates are ready to take on the world.

“You are prepared for the next steps, and know that some of those steps will cause you to stumble,” Smith said.

It is a rapidly changing world, he said, a world full of challenges and sufferings, short on patience and long on judgment.

He also said Gibbs on “NCIS” had one last rule, No. 51: “Sometimes, you are wrong.”

Fugate, the valedictorian, said, “God supported me through all of my years at PCS, even when I felt like quitting.”

He thanked his family and teachers over his years at the Christian School, and especially George “Butch” White, who taught him what discipline was through the “Board” of Education.

“I learned my greatest lesson from Mrs. Michelle Huey: ‘No matter what you do, take the opportunity to witness for God,’” he said. “Wherever you go in life, God will always be with you.”

Special awards included:

• Reed was the recipient of the Martha L. White Educational Scholarship from White which honors his late mother; the Marion Center Bank scholarship from Lindsey Humble, bank representative; and the Trinity College Scholarship from PCS teacher Megan Decker.