Tonight I’m going to yet another college graduation. I figured up that I’ve been to approximately 70 commencement ceremonies during my career thus far. It’s become soooooo routine.
Gather up regalia from office. Drive. Meet at church approximately one hour prior to the service. Eat some food that someone put out. Chat a bit. Find my reading glasses. Sneak out to stage to put them on my identified chair. Go over to the rack that I will soon place the mace in. Make sure I remember how it fits. Recall the time I didn’t remember how it fit and had a quiet panic attack in front of hundreds of onlookers. Check to see that there is room for me to stand in between the rack and the edge of the stage without falling off.
Return to the gathering place. Put on robe. Get someone to help put on hood. Go to bathroom to look in mirror to put on tam. Bobby pin it in good and tight. Check back of robe and hood by turning around as much as possible. Getting old, back hurts. Put on lipstick. Get in line. Oh, I forgot the mace. Look for mace. With mace, get back in line. March through hallway behind the stage party, lugging the heavy baton. Stop at door of the sanctuary. Listen for Pomp & Circumstance. File in. Smile at family members of graduates. Be careful not to trip going up the stairs. Put mace on rack. Blah blah blah.
It’s so routine. Yes, it has become so routine to me, but it’s never routine to the soon-to-be graduates and the packed house of supporters who have come to celebrate this milestone in the life of a person they love. From my vantage point of being on stage, as I begin to see the students file in, all the feelings of “routineness” go away. I am keenly aware that I am privileged to be a part of this very special moment in the lives of so many.
We listen politely to greetings and speeches. And about 20-25 minutes into the ceremony, the fun begins. As students’ names are called (sometimes with great mispronunciation, although I never judge as I have been in the caller’s shoes many times) they lumber across the stage to be met by the president and other dignitaries. Although I don’t know each student by name, I watch every one of them and ponder their faces, and usually smile the entire time as long as they are filing across the stage. Well, I have to peek at some of their shoes too. Even though students are given the directive to wear black, close-toed shoes, many of them don’t. Hey, they figure, “what are they gonna do, suspend me?” And of course we let all types of shoes graduate! The cosmetology students have the best shoes. Sometimes, though, you wonder how they can make it from point A to point B without falling out. But, knock on wood, I’ve never seen it happen.
Some family members hoot and holler and even blow whistles and horns. Some students look embarrassed and some acknowledge the attention with a little show of their own. The longer the calling of names continues the rowdier the crowd becomes.
But, in the end, everyone settles down long enough to remember why we are gathered. The president reminds them all that “to commence” means “to begin” not “to end.” We stop for a few minutes to acknowledge the long roads, sacrifices, and very hard work that brought these people to this very moment in their lives. We wish them well for future success.
And I, for one, am humbled. I really do have the best job in the world!