I hear babies cry,
I watch them grow,
They’ll learn much more,
Than I’ll ever know.
And I think to myself,
What a wonderful world. ~George Douglas & George David Weiss (sung by Louis Armstrong)
Sitting in a folding chair next to family and many other families from town; some in chairs, others back in the bleachers. Witnessing the high school class of 2013 go through their graduation ceremony were family, friends and neighbors. Listening to the students and administrator’s speeches, encouragements and advice I felt hopeful for my newly graduated nephew and his classmates. Hopeful that their youthful enthusiasm will offer them inspiration to overcome challenges ahead.
An alumni who has had noteworthy success in his 10 years since graduation offered a point that resonated with me – accept and embrace failure. We’ve all heard that if at first we do not succeed, try and try again. I find it useful to be reminded and glad to hear it mentioned to the crowd, as failures happen at big and subtle levels continually in my life. I also know that success can be as simple as being aware of a breath, and then aware of whatever else is happening inside and out. Taking the next step in beauty, for self and others. Wishing with all my heart that each of these fresh, young men and woman recognize enough conditions of happiness, love and support in their lives to feel well, to succeed, to get up after falling down. Hopeful that we, as relatives, friends, community members and citizens will help nurture their aspirations. They are our future.
I also felt some moments of regret sitting in that chair. Have I done enough to help make sure that a future is possible for these youth? Have I made the right efforts, said enough kind words, offered enough wisdom when it was needed? Easily I could have the idea that I’ve accomplished more than I thought I would since graduating Sonoma Valley High School on that same football field almost 4 decades ago. Yes, the field looked pretty much the same, but things seem vastly different now. Struggling through college, pursuing justice for youth, Native Americans and others through a public health career was my path. Rightful livelihood, perhaps, but it seems like blah, blah, blah in relationship to the bigger state of the things. You know, the economy, environment, society and those things so big. Bigger than me, seemingly bigger than us. I do have regret that the world seems so much more used up and scary as these graduates take off their gowns and caps and take their next steps. Yet hearing their words, seeing their bright smiles and quick steps gave me positive energy and compassion.
The school’s mascot is a dragon. One speaker proclaimed that once a dragon, always a dragon. Generally I associate the mascot with sports and a yearbook logo. Yet, my time playing sports helped me understand the importance of teamwork. Teachers loved and supported us, helping us individually and helping us work together. And living in a small community I could appreciate that others were nearby to offer help and friendship. At the moment I’m happily reminded that I’m part of a green dragon family which has graduated 119 classes, feeling hopefully optimistic for my nephew, his classmates and everyone else’s relatives who are making a transition from graduate to college, work, travel… life.