Prom's over. So, now I'm sure every student is looking ahead to the coveted final day of class. For some, as it is each year, it will be their last day of class in the high school. It's always a day of smiles and a day of tears because, again, the focus is on the future. At some point in our lives, we all leave certain people and certain places behind. Sometimes we return. Sometimes we don't. Sometimes there's nothing or no one to return to.
That sounds terribly depressing for a week leading up to graduation.
What I mean is this. There are aspects of life we don't fully appreciate until they're in our rearview mirror. It's hard to shoot photos at homecoming, cover school community service projects or type the names of student athletes next to sports scores (which, I've done now, and it's tedious as all get out, so thank your local sports writer) without getting a bit nostalgic about one's own high school days. So, the other day I took my old year book out of the closet in my daughter's room — an indication of not only my graduation date but my organizational skills as well.
Somewhat unpleasantly, I was reminded two of my classmates are no longer living. One died of leukemia. The other died in a car crash. Both left behind parents and yet-to-be-formed families of their own. I didn't know either terribly well, but in a 3A school you do know everybody a little. Yet, I still wonder. I sometimes find myself pondering what I might have done if I'd known — what any of my classmates might have done. It's not a deep terrible dread by any means. It's simply an ever present wisp of a question that digs at the flank of my mind like a boot spur — could I have been more kind?
We all listen to the things valedictorians speak from the stage. We all read the senior quotes. We all hear the poignant songs the choirs sing. Each carries a message about striving toward what's next and maintaining character as we do so. Perhaps that's because we all know everyone eventually goes their separate ways — sometimes criss-crossing back together again, sometimes not.
And that's the crossroads some of the students in our area find themselves at today. One last summer — one last hurrah — and then, who knows? That's why it's important to keep an eye on what you have now just as much as it is to keep an eye on what the future holds. That's why it's important to be kind now, so there will be no questions when we start new journeys down our own paths. That's why it's important to heed these lessons before we reach that crossroad.
That's not limited to graduation day, of course. There are plenty of forks in the road of adulthood too. So, while I do indeed encourage every underclassman sitting on an uncomfortable bleacher and listening to everyone's middle name read over a loud speaker to take the advice of the graduates, I also encourage all of us formerly young people to keep up the habit.
We must always be on the look out for ways to grow, ways to better the future, because our actions will ripple — or fail to ripple — into the great, wide world of other people. And there are a lot of other people in this world, too many for any one of us to tackle alone, but not so many that we can't do it together.
So, do what you can.