Commencement Address at Villanova

“I believe in God, only I spell it Nature.”

–Frank Lloyd Wright

Commencement Address by Villanova

By Anna Quindlen

So here’s what I wanted to tell you today: get a life. Get a real life, not a manic pursuit of the next promotion, the bigger paycheck, the larger house. Do you think you’d care so very much about those things if you blew an aneurysm one afternoon, or found a lump in your breast? Get a life in which you notice the smell of salt water pushing itself on a breeze over Seaside Heights, a life in which you stop and watch how a red-tailed hawk circles over the water gap or the way a baby scowls with concentration when she tries to pick up a Cheerio with her thumb and first finger. Get a life in which you are not alone. Find people you love, and who love you.

I found one of my best teachers on the boardwalk at Coney Island maybe 15 years ago. It was December, and I was doing a story about how the homeless survive in the winter months. He and I sat on the edge of the wooden supports, dangling our feet over the side, and he told me about his schedule, panhandling the boulevard when the summer crowds were gone, sleeping in a church when the temperature went below freezing, hiding from the police amidst the Tilt a Wirl and the Cyclone, and some of the other seasonal rides. But he told me that most of the time he stayed on the boardwalk, facing the water, just the way we were sitting now even when it got cold and he had to wear his newspapers after he read them. And I asked him why. Why didn’t he go to one of the shelters? Why didn’t he check himself into the hospital for detox? And he just stared out at the ocean and said, “Look at the view, young lady. Look at the view.”

And everyday, in some little way, I try to do what he said. I try to look at the view. And that is the last thing I have to tell you today, words of wisdom from a man with not a dime in his pocket, no place to go, nowhere to be. Look at the view. You’ll never be disappointed.

Anna Quindlen, from her commencement address at Villanova University, February 8, 1999 Excerpted from the Heron Dance Book of Love and Gratitude

Coaching Call to Action

This week take time out of your schedule to spend some time in Nature. Feel the sensations that come to you. Are you inspired, in awe, connected? How do you feel?