“When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus” Acts 4:13
The week of graduation arrived. Thank goodness. The weeks leading up, had been frantically filled with one event after another. Some programs were heartwarming, like the church senior night where parent’s letters were read aloud to their senior; other events were productive, like finals. Still one thing after another. The energy in our household was amped up on borderline exhaustion mixed with unprocessed emotion.
The day before graduation our high school held its senior awards assembly in the high school’s Performing Arts Center. The students entered the ceremony with “Pomp and Circumstance” all capped and gowned like they would be at graduation. They then divided into two groups. Seated on the stage sat every student who would receive an award. In front, facing them in the first rows of the auditorium were the rest of the seniors. One by one, award after award, names from the stage came forth to receive applause and recognition for college scholarships to military announcements. Two hours of name after name from the stage
About half way through the ceremony, I began to really focus on the students in the first rows. The peer onlookers. Still dressed for graduation, but not receiving awards. They weren’t the straight A’s or exceptionally gifted. They were the ordinary ones. The students who may or may not have worked hard, who may or may not have had plans beyond high school, and who may or may not have had a clue what they would do the Monday morning following the weekend graduation. They were the ones who walked the school halls during the years, but didn’t hear their name over the intercom for leading the debate or track team to victory. They may have played football or been part of clubs, but didn’t stand out enough to receive an award or scholarship.
I understood them. I was them.
Then I stopped and remembered.
I remembered the feeling of freedom when I walked across the graduation stage after the announcer mispronounced my name. I remembered the smile after my first pay check from Cloth World. I remembered how it felt to do well in my college classes. I blushed to myself recalling the first time I met my husband thinking, “College guys are way better than high school ones”. I thought about how nice it was to meet new friends that didn’t care about my growing-up years except for the funny stories we’d swap on study breaks over coffee at two in the morning. I reminisced over the excitement of College graduation, getting married, struggling finding work as a designer, finally settling into a job – not as a designer, and starting a family. I remembered that after I graduated high school, ACT scores and who I sat with at lunch didn’t matter anymore. My world had opened exposing my ordinary to extraordinary dreams that I never knew even existed within me.
Suddenly, those students not receiving awards were no longer ordinary or average. They represented the hope and promise that our world is far more than high school drama and perspective. They were the ones showing life’s promise of “more than this moment”. Even in graduation grandeur, they were the persevering extraordinary, having completed their mission despite being the ones in the hall without recognition. Life doesn’t always offer awards and plaques for hard work, but it is still worth the effort.
The award’s ceremony ended and the next day our whole family attended graduation. Sitting in a basketball arena, we watched my son as he experienced a rather High School Musical kind of graduation. He marched in with the processional dressed in his Honors stole and sat with the “T’s”. Then joining his choir friends he sang in front of the audience before walking across the stage to take ahold of his diploma, shaking the our District Superintendent’s hand on the way across. Exiting the stage he received a bear hug from his band director of congratulations. Towards the closing of the ceremony, he took the hand of his girlfriend (one of the smart top five graduates) and together they hopped back on stage to lead the closing Alma Matter. Troy and Gabriella would have been proud. It was at this point though, that I leaned over to my daughter and joked, “They aren’t real.” Which made me giggle, because in spite of all this attention and recognition they were receiving, I knew tomorrow morning the slate would be wiped clean. Their lives would kick into a new phase. The phase of life beyond high school where even the ordinary people have chance at an amazing life. Then I gave thanks that my son had this moment and I got to enjoy it, too. It was a fun and precious moment.