by Carol Schierlmann
Graduation season is upon us, and this year amid Covid19, it is a douzy! The run up to a traditional graduation includes a mélange of lasts and firsts – formal dances, choosing a college or career path, signing on for military service, job interviews. As young people prepare to walk across to the stage to receive their diplomas, whether from high school or college, they begin to let go of something familiar and transition to something new. It is an end and a beginning all wrapped up into one emotionally packed moment for them and for the folks who have nurtured them.
This year, in the midst of all that change, graduating seniors have been robbed of their last dances while simultaneously having their future choices complicated by the impacts of a global pandemic. This is the same group of young people who was born right around the terrorist attacks of 9/11, whose entire lives have been spent in a country at war and who have endured active shooter drills since they were barely able to say their ABCs. Like so many others who love this fierce generation of youngsters, I want to shake my fist at the universe and scream, “Enough is enough!” I find myself worrying about them, the ones who are biologically mine and the ones who are mine through community and shared humanity (that’s all of them). Will they get to attend school in the fall? Will it be safe? Will the economy bounce back to give them a chance at a good first job? How will military life be impacted?
You know that saying, “my mama told me there would be days like this?” Jesus knew there would be days like this. Matthew records Jesus as teaching his disciples the following lesson:
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? 28 And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Easier said than done, Jesus. I am worried – I don’t want to be, but I am. So I am submerging myself in God’s word and I am praying. I am meditating and I am praying some more. When I am most in touch with my God-center, I can find the comfort in this message from Jesus. God loves all these young people more than I know how to love them. Whatever is out there in their future, good or bad, joyful or tearful, God will be there too. Right now, that will need to be enough. It’s a truth I need to embrace for them and for me.
Meanwhile, those young people I am fretting about are creating virtual proms, wearing their full graduation regalia in a two hour line to get free donuts with icing ‘2020’ decorations, writing amazing speeches, making sandwiches for those in our community who need food assistance, buying groceries for the immune compromised, and so much more. It reminds me of the end of The Grinch that Stole Christmas when the Grinch realizes that even without the gifts and lights that Christmas came just the same. They may not be crossing stages to pomp and circumstance this year, but the class of 2020 is dancing to its own internal music and graduating with unprecedented grace. May God illumine their path forward with the light of divine love.