Yesterday was my nephew Jaxon’s graduation. I was so proud of him. Seventeen years of life experience, and like any kid many ups and down. Jaxon persevered, buoyed by his commitment to basketball, and there he was before we left home, looking so spiffy in his formal blues. Even his tie was spot on.
As we entered Oilfields High School, there were the young women graduates, with their flowing gowns and dressy hair. The men ranged from formal to western, with five or six cowboy hats sprinkled through the crowd. Smiles abounded.
Before the ceremony, I wandered into the Learning Commons, a fancy name for the library. The woman greeting me glowed as she mentioned the circular drums hanging on the wall. Drumming circles are a regular feature, attracting 15 or 20 students for the creation of music together. Upstairs was a lounge that often features guest speakers, most of whom speak of things that young people face, summed up by “self-esteem”. And throughout the school day, students are welcome to leave class and come to the Commons to work on projects. “There’s a lot of love in this school.”
About 35 graduates paraded one by one along the aisles of the packed gym. Some were confident. Some shuffled. All were honoured. Beamed on the wall were grad photos, plus ones from infancy and childhood. We heard of each person’s favourite memory of Oilfields and what they wanted for the future. The announcer let us know that one boy “simply wants to be happy”. How lovely. No grand athletic achievement, career or lifestyle … just the basics.
The grads sat on the stage. A woman named Jace (same name as Jaxon’s brother), stood in front of us to thank the parents. She spoke so profoundly of the gifts her mom and dad had given. She cried. Many of us did as well. It was a profound message that reached all corners of the room. Hours later at the dinner, I thanked her for the remarkable transmission of love. She put her hand to her heart in response.
Near the end of the ceremony, an Oilfields tradition unfolded. The graduates had chosen a guest speaker, and the vote was nearly unanimous. The teens wanted Mr. Hughes to speak. He retired last year as an Oilfields Math teacher after thirty years at the school. The girl introducing him was clearly moved by Chris Hughes, a fellow who often brought muffins to class, and whose conversations with the kids trumped fractions and parallelograms every time.
I also was moved as Chris spoke. Most of the time, his back was to us because his front was for the kids. It looked like he made eye contact with each one as he roamed back and forth. The smile was non-stop and love flowed freely between teenagers and a 65-year-old man. After the festivities, I approached the revered one and told him how it was so clear that he’s made a huge impact on these young people. He said “Thank you,” his eyes locked with mine.
As a final touch, each grad took a rose as he or she left the stage and sought out someone in the crowd who had helped them complete high school. Lots of reaching out to, lots of grateful receiving.
The dinner was lovely. Our family of six ate together at a round table, one of maybe thirty in the room. There was a joyous buzz in the place, something that naturally developed without a drop of alcohol. During the dancing afterwards, Lance and Nona (Jaxon’s mom and dad) showed the crowd a step or two. Then there was magic: each grad danced with a parent, with love vibrating everywhere.
Thank you, Oilfields High graduates, for allowing me to share in your celebration. I only know one of you and I know you all.