By now I’m sure that you’ve heard Ashton Kutcher’s acceptance speech at this years MTV Teen Choice Awards. In case you haven’t, here it is.
The three things Kutcher mentioned. Opportunity looks a lot like hard work. Be smart, be thoughtful, be generous. Build a life, don’t live one.
A very good speech, unexpected, but that is part of what makes it good. It’s tempting to focus solely on the hard work aspect. That is something that we’re comfortable with after all. We’re told since we’re very young that hard work is the key, there is nothing that hard work can’t fix, at least we like to think so.
Then there’s being smart, thoughtful, and generous. Something that we can all agree on are good characteristics. Again it’s easy to focus solely on this too. We can quantify this. I have a degree in this field and a job with this company. I send birthday cards to friends and family and thank you cards all the time. I even volunteer twice a week at this charity or that organization. Since our youth we’re told these things as well, nothing new.
And then there’s the third thing: Build a life, don’t live one. In his speech Kutcher quotes Steve Jobs as saying: “When you grow up you tend to get told that the world is the way that it is and that your life is to live your life inside the world and try not to get in too much trouble and maybe get an education and get a job and make some money and have a family.” Kutcher is saying don’t be afraid to shake things up when he tells us to build a life. And this isn’t really something that we’re told. We’re told to keep the status quo, to not create problems, to stay within certain boundaries.
I had heard something similar very recently. Then I remembered, about three weeks earlier Pope Francis said this: “What do I expect as a consequence of the Youth Day? I expect a mess. There will be one. There will be a mess here in Rio? There will be! But I want a mess in the dioceses! I want people to go out! I want the Church to go out to the street!”
And then I looked up the Pope’s own speech, in his native language and read it. In that speech Pope Francis brings up the same themes. Be thoughtful and generous to the young and old. Be smart, know your faith. Build! Go out, don’t retreat inward. All of this is underlined and supported by prayer and hard work. Possibly my favorite line from Pope Francis’ speech is: “If you want to know what you actually have to do, read Matthew Chapter 25.”