For this young women, and most of the other young people I know, graduating from High School will not be the highest honor of their lives. Nor will getting married, the only other time most of them will pay to have their picture taken. They will have higher degrees and make important contributions to community or business or family or some other institution. Yet we and they feel it is necessary to mark this particular moment as special. I wonder why.
Is it because of the potential we see in them? They stand poised to leap in a direction yet unknown and the world is theirs for the taking. They have not started down a career path; almost the entire spectrum of possible occupations is open to them. Is it because we are getting a glimmer of what is to come: the first signs of complex thinking, talents beginning to emerge and converge in interesting ways? I have been rolling this over in my mind for several days now and have reached a somewhat un-profound conclusion:
We treasure this moment because it represents HOPE.
Hope is one of those things that keep us going. In the midst of news of increasing temperatures, crime rates, and cost-of-living and decreasing family stability, safety, and ability to predict the future, it is refreshing to gaze upon these young people and imagine what they will become. Hope that this young person, who only a year ago needed to be transported from place to place by an adult, can now begin to take care of herself, and her own needs. Hope that she can navigate to a place of joy, a place with meaningful work and relationships and dreams. Hope for the best. It makes me smile to realize that as a culture we mark the moments of greatest hope with professional photos: babies, high school seniors, brides and grooms.
Jeremiah 29:11 says: For surely I know the plans I have for you,says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope." In this rite of passage, God, the adults, and most young people are of one accord. That's a good reason to keep on marking this milestone!