I know everyone remembers this Dr. Seuss classic (here read by the West Virginia Read Aloud program). You may have received it as a graduation gift from a friend or relative wanting to congratulate you and inspire you to greatness.
I’ve been thinking a lot about graduation and graduates this year. I think it is because that was one of the groups I most wanted to speak to when I wrote Help Wanted . Don’t get me wrong, I like Oh, the Places You’ll Go! It delivers a positive message in a witty way. It encourages grads to have hope for the future while still anticipating challenges. But does it really go far enough? It doesn’t really tell you what to base this hope on. “You are young and smart and things will work out fine,” is kind of the limit.
Oh, the Places You’ll Go! actually helped inspire me while I was writing Help Wanted. I kept thinking, “What if I could move beyond platitudes and write something that would really help young Christians just launching out into the work world? What if I could help them walk more confidently with God through this big transition?” After all, this is a time in life when the material world suddely looms very large, and sometimes that means the spiritual world is given a back seat. Paying your bills and moving out of your parents’ house suddenly grow to absorb much of your attention. If you are not reminded that God gave you those talents you are using and that He wants to be a part of your work life, it is easy to start a pattern of disconnecting your faith and your work.
As I worked with my publisher, I envisioned the book as something that relatives and friends would give as a gift, not only to the person who had lost a job, but to graduates just charting their course. Shortly after I signed my book contract, I was actually approached by another publisher who wanted to buy the book solely to sell it as a gift book in this way.
Speaking to graduates makes sense to me because I was in that very same position when I began to write Help Wanted. As I tell it in the book, I was a new graduate, frustrated in the job search. My mom, who has always loved giving devotionals as gifts, looked around for a devotional for job seekers but couldn’t find one. She joked that I should write my own. That joke became the seed of a new project. I began to ask God for His perspective on my job search, and He was happy to teach me about it. What I learned became the basis for the first devotional chapters.
As the graduation season approaches, I will be helping students that I know think about the places they will go. I will also encourage them to recognize that more important than where they go is who goes with them. Just like Seuss’s character, they will have highs and slumps, but they can hope in the One who has a plan for their lives, and is faithful, even more than “98 and 3/4 percent”.