Graduation - a comma in life, not a period

Benjamin Chase of the Plainsman
Posted 5/19/23

In this From the Mound, the writer views graduation as a step rather than an ending

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Graduation - a comma in life, not a period


“May passion be the wind
That leads you through your days
And may conviction keep you strong
Guide you on your way”
“Find Your Wings” — Mark Harris

One of the major groups in Christian music in the 1990s was 4Him, a male quartet with tremendous harmonies. The group won eight Dove Awards and were nominated for a Grammy for their album “The Message.”

Harris was one of the major songwriters for 4Him before going solo in the mid-2000s. This song is on his 2005 debut solo album “The Line Between the Two.”

“Find Your Wings” reached as high as No. 4 on Christian charts and No. 30 in Billboard Adult Contemporary charts. It also won a Dove Award for the Inspirational Song of the Year for 2005.

The song is a great one for father/daughter and mother/son dances at weddings for sure, but it has a special significance during graduation season with its message, written from the point of view of a parent sending a child off to a new adventure in life. When the key change hits, the tears certainly may flow.

High school graduations are the order of the day this time of year. James Valley Christian held commencement last weekend, and multiple schools, including Huron, hold graduation ceremonies this weekend.

Certainly, parents and graduates alike are receiving plenty of unprompted advice on handling this change…and far be it from me to miss out on that chance!

So, this weekend’s column is focused on some bits of advice for parents and graduates alike this weekend.

1. Graduation is just one day in a long journey. Don’t overhype yourself on the day!

Many build up singular days as “life-changing” and “monumental” in a life span. High school graduation is certainly one of those. A huge party is often planned, friends and family come out of the woodwork with a graduation card (with money inside!), which would indicate a level of value in the accomplishment.

However, when graduation becomes put on too much of a pedestal, the end goal is truly missed. It’s very akin to a wedding day.

Some will spend tens and even hundreds of thousands of dollars on a wedding. However, in the life span of a long, successful marriage, the wedding day is simply a transition point, not a peak.

Marriage is the point when a romantic relationship is declared publicly. The work that goes into that relationship was present before and certainly will be needed after the wedding day.

Graduation is similar in that it is a means to better employment outcomes and required for the pursuit of further education, but it’s not an individual end, simply a transition to a different place to learn.

2. Learning never stops, whether in the classroom or not.

Along the lines of the first point, graduation doesn’t end learning in a lifetime. For many, it’s the last day of formal education, but every job has ongoing training, and life does the same.

Heck, consider the growth in technology that someone in their 80s has experienced - a world without any computers all the way to the point when a mobile phone contains a computer infinitely more powerful than the first home computers in the 1980s ever were.

That doesn’t just involve exterior learning. Our own self can and should grow constantly. A famous quote says that, “If you’ve not changed your mind on a position in the last five years, check your pulse. You’re dead.”

We are constantly learning. Parents, think of all the things you thought you knew about parenting 18 years ago - and where you’re at now.

3. While things always change, never lose sight that you’re not alone in this experience.

Being helped in life isn’t a horrible thing, even as hard as it may be to ask for help at times. Remain open to receiving assistance in life and also be willing to offer a hand whenever and however you can.

A quick story: this week, I had the opportunity to photograph the Huron senior class enjoying a slip-and-slide down Toboggan Hill. The grass on Toboggan Hill was untrimmed, and recent rains and proximity to the James River provided an ample breeding ground for mosquitos. They were everywhere!

While they were concerned with surviving the long slide down the hill and keeping themselves safe and bug-free, no fewer than three different seniors offered to go grab me some bug spray to address the mosquitos that were swarming.

That seems like such a small thing in the scale of the world, but being open and willing to aid others in the small things is what leads to big changes.

Graduates, enjoy the day, with an eye to tomorrow and continuing on the next step of your journey.

Parents, your role is about to transition, but you’ll always be a parent for your child. Today isn’t the end of that journey, so be careful not to turn today into a mourning!

Community, we’ve loved this group of seniors up and provided them with opportunities to succeed. After this graduation, a whole new class will be ready for a senior year, and it will continue in that pattern. Let’s all do everything we can to ensure our schools and communities have all the resources to give young people the best start possible - to help them find their wings!