A crop of graduates is simply a promise for a far greater harvest yet to come.

The shade of an apple tree wasn’t enough to keep me cool Sunday, but it reminded me of an important story a friend once shared.

It seems that an old man was planting apple trees in a field. A younger guy was passing by and stopped to watch. He couldn’t help but offer an opinion.

“You crazy old man!” he shouted. “You’ll never live to eat the apples off those trees!”

The old man kept digging, pausing just briefly to respond.

“Young man,” he said, “I’ve spent my whole life eating apples off the trees other people have planted.”

The tree I hoped might shade my van Sunday was no match for temperatures near 100 degrees, but come August, it should bear plenty of good apples. I discovered it a couple of years back on the Knoxville High School parking lot and, with school permission, picked a bunch of apples last September for Helping Hands.

The van was warming to broil while I watched 119 students graduate from KHS. The tree made me ponder what fruit these young people will bear. I’ve helped nurture some of these students in small ways. But I found myself grateful Sunday for the parents, pastors, friends and, especially, the teachers who pruned and nurtured them all these years.

One of these students shared a profound message in her graduation speech.

“Find where you can fit into this world, and do good things for other people as often as you can,” she said. “Find where you are not just welcomed, but necessary.”

A crop of graduates is simply a promise for a far greater harvest yet to come.

Many of these students will continue to mature, finding ways to help others. They’ll become healers, helpers, first-responders, maybe even teachers. They’ll become good parents, good neighbors and good people to have around.

Driving home, it was hard to ignore the campaign signs that have sprouted like crabgrass. They represent folks who want to serve us as a county supervisor or state representative. Politicians lack the warm-fuzzy factor that high school grads enjoy, but these local hopefuls show the exact spirit called for in that graduation speech.

“Go where you’re needed,” the young speaker went on to say. “Rather than doing what you want to do, do what you feel is needed in this world.”

That’s the beauty of this crop of candidates. I feel blessed to have done more than two dozen interviews this year with people running for office. Of the local people running, I sense that only one or two might have aspirations beyond the job they’re seeking in the June 5 primary. Most just want to serve. Their approach is “if not me, then who?” They want to share their gifts.

The jobs they seek are pretty thankless. The pay doesn’t make up for the long hours, the expectations of expertise, and the criticism leaders face when they don’t please all of the people. But still, they run.

I’m not the best judge of character, but it’s pretty good bunch of apples. I won’t tell you whom to vote for. Just vote.

I will say this: Our local candidates seem to have gotten a message, maybe from a graduation speaker long ago, to do what they feel is needed in this world.

I hope our recent graduates heed that same call.

Pat Finan is the managing editor of the Journal-Express. He can be reached in the newsroom at 641-842-2155 or via email at

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