Graduation is in ninety minutes assuming we start on time. For some seventeen and eighteen year olds, this will be the most emotional moment so far of their young lives.The following, from 5-10-2006, is about one step in the process.
Like almost anything you can think of, a school year is broken down into three parts; the beginning, the middle, and the end. I love the middle but I'm not as fond of the other two. Beginning and closing a school year consist in large measure of procedures and checklists. These are necessary but not the fun part of teaching. The clock is about to strike midnight on the school year with just ten days remaining. Five are of the regular variety, two are for finals' review, and three saved for semester tests. The kids are counting the hours as are their instructors. I enjoy the summer but I will be ready to go again in August with new kids, new faculty, and Lord willing, new enthusiasm. I'm looking forward to next year but the eerie thing is, it seems like this one just started!
They have begun to fill my mailbox. You can tell by the shape and size of the envelope that it's one of two things: a wedding invitation or a graduation announcement. Three of the latter came in recent days. Although I was aware that the three kids in question would be walking across the stage this month, it never registered until I held the brightly engraved in school colors card, stuffed inside a separate envelope. I've known this trio at different times and on various levels. My nephew, Seth Hawley, will graduate from Wichita Collegiate School in Kansas. I held Seth as a baby. I was there when he locked his keys in my car in a Kroger parking lot- with him inside- as a two year old. I watched as he threw a brick off a basketball toss back, creating a gusher of blood from his forehead. I have seen him grow into a mature young man who is great with the elderly and in the mission field. Lauren Bedevian will receive her diploma from A & M Consolidated High School in College Station, Texas. Lauren, aka Dr. Lauren, is one of my favorite all-time students. For a year, I ate lunch daily with Lauren and her buddy, Sheela Farooque, in our Westbury Christian School cafeteria. Lauren has a pure heart and is tremendous in reaching out to the struggling. Sadly, for us, her family moved after her freshman year and I never was blessed to teach her again. April Easley will have her commencement exercises at Friendship Christian School in Lebanon, Tennessee. If I know April, I would guess she will be speaking that day, based on her academic triumphs. April has had a profound impact on my life, so much that I co-dedicated the book I authored to her. I was there the day she sobbed when she found out I was moving away, never easy for a man to witness! I was there the day she was baptized into Jesus Christ. I was there the day she bonded with Kathryn Thomas, maybe the best person I have ever known. Seth, Lauren, and April don't know each other and probably will never meet but they are connected in my mind through their connection to me.
This must be a hard time for parents of seniors. Pride and joy have to be tinged with nostalgia. In preaching weddings, I often quote the best song I know about children growing up, Joni Mitchell's The Circle Game. Its chorus is a haunting definition of the invisible and unstoppable nature of the clock:
And the seasons, they go 'round and 'round,
And the painted ponies go up and down:
We're captives on the carousel of time.
We can't return, we can only look behind from where we came,
And go 'round and 'round and 'round in the circle game.
I would hate that song if I was a parent, if only because of its accuracy. The time that lets us grow is the time that carries us away. The time is now short for you, Seth, Lauren, and April. Your folks know it. Let them love on you while they still can. To my regret, I wanted little to do with any sort of celebration honoring my high school graduation. I even blew off my Master's degree commencement, thinking it was just one more time to don the robe and it wouldn't matter to my folks. I robbed them of some joy although they were far too kind to make an issue out of it. I have no more chances- you do. I won't be there but my heart will. Hug your folks; they deserve it. God speed and love from your uncle, your teacher, and your friend.
Applicable quote of the day:
"A graduation ceremony is an event where the commencement speaker tells thousands of students dressed in identical caps and gowns that individuality is the key to success."
Uncle Steve/ Coach Hawley
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