April Rapp Up

As April draws to a close, many of our thoughts and energies are directed towards our seniors. In my May Rapp Up, I will share some thoughts about this special group that is getting ready to graduate, but for this edition, I wanted to share the words of someone else.

As you know, SJA mother, teacher, and friend Samantha Branson has been battling pancreatic cancer for over 12 months now, and the challenges that battle has presented have prevented her from being in the classroom this school year. Despite her physical absence, we all know her heart is still in this building through the love she has poured into her colleagues and students and the prayers that she sends to us daily.

To honor the inspiration she has provided to all of us, this year we established the Samantha Branson Courage Award to honor those in our community who have shown “strength through the storm.” Mrs. Branson was our inaugural honoree, and we asked her to speak to our seniors at their awards assembly Friday. With her permission, I am sharing her words to the seniors below. It is a powerful, beautiful message that I think we all need to hear. Please keep Samantha and her family in your prayers, asking God for a miraculous cure if it be His will, and continued grace for this courageous woman and family.

What an awesome, happy day! I’ve sure missed your beautiful, smiling faces and the buzz of energy and the spirit that fills up this place that I love so much. It’s hard to believe that graduation is almost here for the Class of 2019. I vividly remember (just like it was yesterday, as us old people like to say) the day we greeted you as freshmen out on the red carpet. One of those days when your cheeks get sore from smiling so much. 🙂 Just think how quickly this past year has gone by for you, how it wasn’t that long ago when you crowded together out there at the curb yourselves to welcome a new class of freshmen, urging them to “Come as You Are.”

What a loving and encouraging theme you chose — loving because it let others know that you were willing to be here for them, accepting, with open hearts; and encouraging because it acknowledged that as God’s children, we are all in this together. To “come as we are” in any endeavor, to lay it all out there time and time again, is certainly something that takes guts. And as graduates, you will soon be giving it your all in new and exciting ways.

But no worries; you’ve got this. You’re quite the courageous bunch. Whether taking on a challenge in class, with your team, at home, in your community or in your walk with Christ, you’ve shown courage. Your teachers, coaches, house mentors and parents have seen it. I’ve seen it, even if it’s been from afar more recently. And more impressively, I’ve been on the receiving end of it. With every email, every note, every hug, every prayer, you have helped me find the courage I need to take on every new battle that comes along. I have come to rely on the unconditional love of my family and on the power of prayer like never before, and I have had to learn to reach farther for Christ’s light and strength on dark days. But know that even in the toughest times, God gives us the opportunity to rediscover and deepen our trust and faith. Ultimately, I truly believe that I am standing here because of the generosity, love and prayers of others — of all of you. For this and for every day, I am eternally grateful.

So I want to thank you for being so bold. You might not realize it, but your courage shows in many ways. By believing in and supporting others, you help others believe in themselves. By pushing yourself to step outside your comfort zone, you show others how to face their fears, no matter how big or small. And by living your faith — discerning God’s will, embracing it and acting on it — you help others grow in their spiritual journeys, too.

You might fail at some things sometimes, but that’s OK. Don’t let fear of that overwhelm your desire to do good, to live generously. Share a little bit of yourself in every new situation you face. Pray for each other and pay it forward. Know that the world needs you.

Keep remembering that just as we learn from our mistakes in life, we can grow in faith and find strength in those moments when we are afraid and really struggle to give everything over to God — to trust with all our hearts, to love endlessly, to accept his mercy and to discover the grace to allow Him to bring about goodness in our lives. YOU are filled with courage. So go out and use it to live, grow, love and be your best.

-Samantha Branson

Your brother in Christ,

Shane