Last week, there were several graduations going on at our school. For the first time, SYIS held graduation ceremonies for kindergarten, 5th grade, and 8th grade. There was also a fancy graduation banquet and ceremony for the 12th grade class. Anyone was invited to the ceremony, but you had to be a high school teacher or principal, or especially invited to attend the banquet. Adam and I had the honor of both being invited to the banquet. We were very excited and felt privileged to be included. However, since we were each invited by different students, we would be sitting separately. Still, this goes down as a 'date' in my book. We scheduled a sitter, got dressed up, and ate a nice meal without our 10 month baby squawking for more finger food from our plates. Here's some pictures I stole from the kind friend who babysat Willow. I'm sure the girls had a great time, and we were so thankful for the great care Willow received. When I returned home, the house was clean and Willow had been bathed! Wow! Such service.
Play time with dear friends!
|This picture makes me laugh!|
We were told three summers ago at our training, that the longer we stayed in China (i.e. the more time we invested in our students) the more rewards we would experience. More time = greater bonds.I think it continues something like: greater bonds = greater influence.
Although I can't claim that my influence has reached levels of 'greatness', I am starting to understand how time is an investment. The greater the investment, the greater the reward. Our students are Third Culture Kids. Friends come and go all the time; so there's something to be said about sticking around. We want to stick around for them. But at some point, change becomes inevitable. Like graduating from high school.
It's a big deal in America--it's some sort of thresh hold that students feel deep down inside. I'm going to suggest that it's an even bigger deal in an international community. These kids are affected in every possible way by their TCK experience. Graduating from high school is so much more than an academic accomplishment. It means leaving 'home'--the place you've been living that isn't your home country. It means re-entering a culture that isn't truly 'yours' anymore. It means leaving what has finally become familiar, and returning to what now seems foreign. Perhaps it means leaving your family thousands of miles behind. Perhaps it means joining the military for obligatory service. It means accomplishment; survival; completion. Maybe it means studying for more tests, hoping to get accepted into universities that use languages you haven't studied fully in years. It means packing and goodbyes. These kids have so many extra responsibilities and expectations placed upon them, yet they continue to thrive and flourish. That's one of many reasons why they are so amazing, and why we love being a part of their lives.
At the banquet
Wish I could post the pictures and videos that I took during the evening. Alas...I cannot! So, mere words will have to do. During the banquet, I got to sit next to a dear student/mentee/friend and her family. I first met her during the fall of 2009 when she auditioned for The Secret Garden. She landed the role of Mary Lennox--the main part--and worked really hard. She also participated in Treasure Island and we started a mentoring relationship in 2010. She has matured so much in three school years, and I loved seeing her perform as Marmee in Little Women. I can't express how honored I felt to be invited to the banquet, to be sitting with her and her family, and to witness her graduation. Lots of emotions were welling up in me--I was very proud of her accomplishments, as I reflected upon the events of the past few years. I hope and pray for her future, and plan on keeping in touch. I will stalk her facebook. ;) Through mentoring, drama, and even student council (through Adam), I've enjoyed getting to know this sweet student and can't imagine my city without her in it. Marmee, if you are reading this, I can't begin to explain how much I will miss you! I'm definitely planning on seeing you again--and Willow has volunteered to be your future flower girl.
Adam, who lead student council, was invited by the boy who was the student council president this year. They also played basketball together (both as player/coach, and just pick-up games that athletic people put together). This boy was also in Treasure Island, so I was able to get to know him a little--he's fantastic. Adam learned how to say, "Thank you for inviting me" in Korean so that he could thank this student and his family. I thought that was thoughtful of Adam!
This is the first year, among three, that I have felt so torn about the graduates who will be leaving. These students were sophomores when we arrived. They were babies. Now they're grown up and leaving. And most likely, I'll never see many of them again. That's the nature of this international community. When people leave, it's usually for good. It's usually for another foreign destination. There are no class reunions. And, even if there were, it's not like I would be attending them in any likelihood. So it is with bittersweet feelings that I wish these twelve gifted graduates goodbye.
During the dinner, the father of each graduate stood up and spoke blessings and truth into their child's life. Many were in English, but several were in Korean. Although I couldn't understand the Korean words, I could hear the love in the fathers' voices, their sorrow, and their pride. It brings tears to my eyes almost a week later just remembering their voices. Some dads read words that they had carefully written out. Others spoke from their heart. Some stumbled in English, while others were eloquent. They spoke of why they loved their child, why they were proud of them, what they hoped for them, what they prayed for them. Many warned them of challenges, but pointed them to the Redeemer. Knowing most of the graduating class--it was so beautiful to hear their dads speak to them. I've watched them come through particularly difficult times, personal conflict, culture shock, and all sorts of troubles. I've also watched them grow as students and believers. I've observed that they are intelligent, unique, and silly--and I enjoyed hearing their dads praise them. I know it's probably different from family to family, but generally Koreans do not practice words of affirmation between father and children. I'm sure these kids will cherish and remember these words for as long as they live.
The first father who spoke read a poem to his daughter called The Father's Hands. I had to concentrate very hard on NOT bawling. Some tears might have escaped. The poem was about how he used to rock her at night, read her books, dry her tears...but how he is relinquishing her to the care of her Heavenly Father. He acknowledged that he couldn't fix everything for her anymore, but that there was One who could. It reminded me that many of the families of these graduates will be separated once the coming school year starts. Separated by borders and oceans. The parents have to trust with extra intensity that the Father will protect their precious kids, as their teenagers forge ahead towards becoming what the Father created them for.
The last speech also got to me. The young man's father spoke in Korean, so I desperately wish that I had had a translator. The father, who we shared a table with during dinner, was stoic. Sitting in his fine suit, he looked the picture of Korean honor and pride. But he couldn't even get one word out about his son before he was choked up. The son also fought back tears, as his father's hand was on his shoulder. Adam had someone translating for him, and he said the dad was saying something along the lines of, "I'm sorry I wasn't always there for you". The love each father tried to condense into a three minute speech was emotionally overwhelming for me! I can't imagine what the parents and students were going through--and I don't want to think about Willow graduating in eighteen years.
After dinner, Adam and I were able to get some great pictures with these students. I am so sad that I can't share them with you! They were dressed up and looked super sophisticated--all grown up. Then they changed into their graduation garb, and we were transferred into another room that was set up for the ceremony.
During the ceremony, three of the seniors gave speeches. They were amazing! So witty, polished, and God-honoring. I literally swelled with pride. Not because I had anything to do with their upbringing, or accomplishments, or spiritual growth--but because of what I saw shining through them. I pray that they stay firmly rooted in the coming years and will not waiver. One of the boys who spoke, is in my opinion, one of the most under-rated students at our school. I mean this in the best possible way. He is absolutely amazing. He is a great brother to his younger sister, a hard worker, very smart and creative, and a great servant leader. His Walk is inspiring, and his heart is tender towards the Truth. I've loved directing him for three years. He was our 'flexible' actor. We knew we could put him in any role, when casting, and he would excel at it. He is so talented and has a bright future. I hope that people at his university, and well after that, will recognize his creative genius and kind heart. I hope that he finds venues to express the gifts he's been blessed with, and that he will find friends with similar interests and passions who will push him closer to the Creator. I could go on and on about this kid. He's that great. I will miss him in the drama department. He always brought us up a notch with his willingness to help with whatever needed to be done, and his commitment to character work. He was a great listener, an advocate, and a positive influence. So sad to see this student go, but so hopeful for what he will do next.
|Notice the size of this bouquet. It was so enormous! It took up a whole sit on it's own. It must have had a diameter of three feet, at least!|
|The hotel lobby where the ceremony and banquet were held. Another ritzy hotel in our great city!|
|I should have taken a picture from the entrance looking at the stair case. It was quite impressive. When we entered, I couldn't help saying, 'wow'.|
I guess, out of all the classes at SYIS (besides the third graders that I taught), I knew this class the best. I can't imagine our school without them, or how I will manage drama in their absence (75% of this class participated in drama). It seems like all the fun and talent is leaving with them.
Congratulations to the class of 2012! If you are reading this, slim chance though it may be, I'm so proud of you and wish you the very best. Praying for you as you transition into college and whatever is next for you.
p.s. on a side note: it's really strange to me that my brother, Tommy, also graduated from highschool this year. To put him in the same age bracket as these kids just boggles my mind. How are you so old, Tommy? And how are these kids so young? Ah!