Last Saturday, Angel and I attended the CHS graduation ceremony. Despite hearing carbon copies of the same graduation songs and speeches since the beginning of time (and I just spent 20 minutes youtubing good graduation speeches and found nothing worth sharing), it was still nice to witness the bubbling excitement and youthful energy of these graduates as they took this important step into a future filled with new possibilities. While there, I had the pleasure of seeing about a dozen guys and girls that I have worked with over the last 7 years walk or dance across the stage to get their diploma.
After patiently waiting for everyone to have their moment in the sun, we filed outside with the hundreds of other attendees, most of them strangers, all of them pretty much dressed better than me. We exited the building into the court yard, my eyes now squinting in the bright sunlight as I look for familiar faces of the boys and the families I’ve gotten to know well these last 7 years. But instead of locating the boys, I find men. Sure, some have been 18 for a while now, but they are about to face the world, which is often not nearly as forgiving as HS. Moments and visions of the past 7 years pass through my head. I question myself, thinking, “I should have been tougher on him there, I should have followed-up with him on that, or I should have been more patient with him then.” Are these guys ready for post-secondary school? Are they ready to work full time jobs? Do they know and believe that they are made in the image of God and are valuable because of this image that they bare? Do they know that they are loved by their creator and that they can lean on him when they are scared, overwhelmed, confused, and unsure of what is coming next?
I do my best to shake these thoughts from my head as I recognize these concerns are also areas of struggle in my own life at times. As I practice my faith and call on Jesus for mercy for myself, I will continue to encourage these men and friends to do the same; as we get together for a game, catch a movie, or share a meal together. Approaching Jaime and his family, my eyes now fully adjusted to the light, I am welcomed by a big hug and smiles from him and his family. The warmth of the embraces, generous words, and the invitation to break bread and celebrate together help continue to wash away my fears and remind me of God’s overflowing generosity.