SUBSCRIBE NOW

Tinsley column: Congratulations to the Class of 2020

Bill Tinsley
More Content Now
Daily Comet

Every May, when trees splash green lawns with shade and wildflowers fill the air with fragrance, we celebrate one of the significant rites of passage for each generation. Normally young men and women robe themselves in their school colors and don mortarboard caps with dangling tassels to accept diplomas signifying their educational achievement. But this year isn’t normal. Not for the Class of 2020.

Some are watching commencement speeches online in the same way they completed their course assignments with their teachers and professors. Some will dress for photos taken in their living rooms with family, or outside with their school building in the background. Family and friends will do their best to make it special. But it is not the same. The pressing crowd of friends with whom they once played on playgrounds, with whom they studied, competed, worked and grew to adulthood, will be missing. They will not stand shoulder-to-shoulder, searching the crowd to locate parents who search for them. They will not walk the stage when their name is called and they will not pose together for a class picture.

I feel a sense of grief for the Class of 2020. The coronavirus pandemic has stolen something precious from them that will be difficult to replace. Rites of passage are important. But even if the pandemic restrictions take away the pomp and the circumstance of the moment, it cannot steal away the love and admiration we feel for these graduates. I hope, in some small way, the words of this weekly column can add to the affirmation for this special Class of 2020.

My best friend’s granddaughter is a member of this class, one of the brightest young women I have known. When she was 7 years old and entering second grade, I said to her, “You are very smart. But it is important as you grow up to be wise.” I asked, “Do you know the difference between being smart and being wise?” Without hesitation, she said, “Sure, smart is knowing that 3 + 3 equals 6. Wise is doing the right thing.” This month she graduates from high school with the Class of 2020, a very wise young woman with full scholarships to college. I want to shout congratulations to Gillian and to the entire Class of 2020!

Many high schools and colleges are hoping to carry out graduation exercises later this summer. I hope they can, although most expect it will still have social distancing restrictions. Whether they do or not, my hopes are high that these youth will lead the world forward to a better day. There is so much that needs to be accomplished in social justice, equal opportunity, environmental stewardship, global cooperation and mutual respect among all peoples.

I am reminded of Paul’s instruction to his young friend Timothy, “Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe” (1 Timothy 4:12). And Jeremiah’s prophecy, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope’” (Jeremiah 29:11).

Bill Tinsley reflects on current events and life experience from a faith perspective. Visit www.tinsleycenter.com. Email bill@tinsleycenter.com.