Maybe every graduation is tinted with transformation.
From preschool to college we are eager to mark transitions. Mothers cry with pride — My baby! — and with incredulity — All grown!
I’ve been to a handful of graduation ceremonies and I’ve purchased dozens of graduation gifts. Sometimes I search out the perfect token but too often it’s been an obligatory offering. I’ve felt some emotion, sure, but from a distance. A sort of good-for-you lukewarm applause.
I never felt the awe of accomplishment. Until the other night.
There were no gowns. No gifts. No long-winded speeches.
Just four adults waving certificates and sharing a sheet cake.
Just four graduates — circled by two parents, two children, a boyfriend, and the volunteers who helped them achieve their GEDs.
“I feel amazing!” said the 19-year-old who had dropped out of high school, refocused, and now held a diploma.
“I wanted to do better for my kids,” said the 43-year-old single mother, choking back tears.” I didn’t have time. I didn’t have money. There were so many obstacles. I waited a long time. If it wasn’t for this program, I could have never have done this.”
There was no theme music. No celebratory toasts. Just an infectious joy that made everyone — from the tutors to the new students just starting to study — feel a jolt of hope.
For an hour, in a small room of an old school, we were collectively lifted in a transformation. As if, at the same time, and with fierce pride, we each held a new truth: If Angie, Ashley, Heather and Kristi can soar over life’s many obstacles, maybe I can, too!