It’s Time For All Graduates To Notice The River

Editorial by Robert Kirwan

During the months of May and June many of the parents, grandparents and family members reading this article will be attending graduation ceremonies at elementary, secondary and post-secondary institutions throughout the region. 

   As a professional educator in the classroom for 28 years, and now with my own tutoring company, I often find myself wondering if our education system has adequately prepared our children for the challenges of life that lay ahead of our graduates once they enter the real world beyond school. At times, I have felt a lot like the Master in the story told by Anthony de Mello.

   “As the Master grew old and infirm, the disciples begged him not to die. The Master said, “If I did not go, how would you ever see?”

  “What is it we fail to see when you are with us?” they asked.

    But the Master would not say.

   When the moment of his death was near, they said, “What is it we will see when you are gone?”

   With a twinkle in his eye, the Master said, “All I did was sit on the riverbank handing out river water. After I’m gone, I trust you will notice the river.”

    Every time I read that story I get a chill running up and down my spine; for it is true that the best teachers in the world are those who sit on the “riverbank handing out river water”.

    I am convinced that knowledge is caught, not taught, thus our role as educators and parents is to provide leadership and to facilitate experiences which will enable our children to “notice the river” after they leave us. We hand out the “river water of knowledge and learning experiences” in the hopes that our students will be able to see the whole river when we are no longer part of their lives.

   My message this week is for all graduates who are finished with their formal education.  It is time to ‘notice the river’.

   If the years you have been in school were beneficial, you will indeed notice the river that has grown in size through the experiences you have encountered in life. As you go forth to meet new challenges, you may never fully realize the value of those experiences, but your attitude and determination to succeed will surely have grown from the water which was handed out to you in the past by all of your teachers. While you were a student, you could not possibly have seen the river, focussing only on the bits of water you were given at the time. But now as you walk off that stage with your diploma in hand, you can gaze across the world of opportunity in front of you and clearly see the river flowing. You can see that each time you were handed a cup of water, your personal river grew larger and more splendid.

   As you go forward into your new careers, remember the story about the university graduate who met with his boss on his first day of work. The graduate went on and on about all of the things he had taken in school and tried to impress the boss with what he knew about the job. The boss quietly served the graduate a cup of coffee and began to pour. He filled the cup to the brim and then kept pouring. The graduate watched the overflowing cup until he could no longer restrain himself.

   “It’s overfull! No more will go in!” the graduate blurted.

   “You are like this cup,” the boss replied. “How can you expect to fit in with this company unless you first empty your cup?”

   So I say to all graduates, as you make your journey through life, pay attention to the new “teachers” along the way who are there to hand you some more water to add to your river. Each time your cup is filled with a new experience, empty it into your personal river, making it even more spectacular and magnificent. Always be willing to fill your cup with new water and as you look back upon the river it will be something you can be proud of. Soon, it will be you who will be sitting by the riverbank handing out river water, just like the Master in the story.  

   Remember, “Wisdom tends to grow in proportion to one’s awareness of one’s ignorance. When you come to see you are not as wise today as you thought you were yesterday, you are wiser today.”

   Have a good week!


The Private Practice of
Robert Kirwan, OCT., B.A. (Math), M.A. (Education)
Independent Education, Training & Career Development Consultant