HumankindNESS-To the Pandemic Graduates

By Jennifer Richardson
2020 has been a time of significant change. We as a culture have struggled to cope and adjust to the shifting landscape of our daily lives as a global pandemic has altered or canceled most of our plans for this year. One of the groups most affected by these sweeping changes is our graduating class of high school seniors.  

The class of 2020 has been sidelined and forced to simply watch sand filter through the hourglass while the dates for typical milestones come and go, unheralded or quietly commemorated. Prom, sports, banquets, music, theater, and other typically celebrated rites of passage in the life of a high school senior simply cannot be shared in the same way we shared them last year, or most years anyone can remember.

Beautiful efforts have been made. Parades have been planned that adhere to social distancing protocols, social media has become a substitute for in-person sharing of hopes and dreams for our graduates, and important symbolic gestures, like turning on the football field lights and placing hearts in our windows, have become ways we can all share in each others’ lives without actually being together.

But the sadness is palpable, perhaps even more so for parents, as students approach this traditional milestone we call high school graduation. Most schools are doing their best to mark the occasion and will be holding some kind of remote ceremony to acknowledge the culmination of twelve years of work for the senior class. But the feelings of loss are real; when we cannot celebrate in each others’ presence, there is a feeling of being left out. It feels unfair, like maybe you are starting life with less than others have received. 

There is truth in this feeling graduates, when it comes to traditional celebrations you will receive less than those before you. But let me share with you how you will graduate and enter your adult life with more than you thought. 

Let’s call it 2020 vision.

Your 2020 vision will include an early and practical grasp on the nuts and bolts of how to effectively avoid the spread of illness and proactively protect your own health. It is a sure bet that last year’s high school graduates went off into careers or college with less of an understanding of how to safeguard themselves and others.

You may feel behind other typical graduating classes in collective celebrations, but you will be ahead of the game in your understanding of universal, human experiences, such as sacrifice. Not many high school graduates can say that they have learned to give up something for the good of their fellow man. This quality is at the root of all nobility. Those who have fought and died for our country have truly sacrificed what their lives would have been, and now you understand a measure of what that feels like and will be able to appreciate this selflessness.

Your 2020 vision has broadened your perspective about your world. You may be one of the few high school classes who truly understand how interconnected we all are. You will now intuitively know that being willing to give up traditions may have saved the lives of your grandparents, or your friends’ grandparents. You have learned that lives in other places depend on your good choices. Great societies are built on the understanding that we do our best to choose options that will help and not harm each other. Previous years’ classes may take longer to see the connections between people, but not you, you will recognize this right out of the gate.

Yes, when it comes to commemoration of milestones, your vision is somewhat diminished. But when it comes to concepts that typically take many adult years to build, such as respect for health, nobility, sacrifice, and interdependence–your vision is already crisp and unclouded. In some ways you are graduating with a clear advantage.

Your education has included many things and academics and milestones are just the beginning. Allow yourself to feel the sadness of what has been lost, but embrace the universal truths you have come to know far ahead of most of your peers. Go forth and live your life with grace for others and gratitude for what you have learned, and I promise you will make your mark on our changed world. 

Congratulations graduates. Your 2020 vision will serve you well, and this is still your year.

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