Steps from the highrise condo I share with my partner are the paths where, each May, the high school graduates gather. Dressed in formal dresses and tuxedos, they wait for the signal to walk along the path, admired by family and friends, until they reach the ballroom of the Grand Hotel. Their entourage falls away, and they are left to dance and dine and celebrate this ritual of their approaching adulthood.
I confess to being something of a curmudgeon when I see them in their finery. Dresses like the ones they are wearing cost in the range of $300 to $800. Tuxedos can be rented here for as little as $60. Still, multiply all the graduates by gowns and rentals, flowers and limousines, dances and dinners, and the tally for this small town alone must top a million dollars.
This year I sent my internal judge into temporary exile. Camera in hand, I wandered among the graduates and their families. I saw the pride on the faces of parents, relatives and friends. I saw the shaky confidence and optimism on the faces of the graduates. I saw how utterly beautiful these young men and women were, poised on the edge of the great unknowns of their adult lives.
This year, instead of shaking my head at the high cost of this annual celebration, I sent up silent prayers of joy and hope for each of these beautiful teenagers. Their roads will not be smooth. No one’s is. It’s in navigating the rough spots they will gain character, empathy, and strength.
May their bags be packed with curiosity, empathy, intelligence, grit, and love.