today i went to the high school graduation of the daughter of some congolese friends. i expected the usual to-do: flower toting parents, rent-a-cops confiscating bubble stuff and beach balls, school administration stumbling over graduate's names.
what i found instead was an auditorium full of immigrants sharing in the joy of their children, many of whom had to work twice as hard as your average american to learn subject matter and english simultaneously to make it to this day; entire communities of people cheering on their graduates, including ululating sub-saharan africans and a gaggle of starry eyed nepali teens; kids translating for their parents as parents welled with pride. i saw an administration and staff that must really feel as though the odds are stacked against them and the hurdles to overcome are insurmountable, and yet, here they all were. i saw students in headscarves under their mortarboards, with saris poking out under their green gowns. i saw an auditorium full of people who put their hopes and dreams into this group of young people on stage, and a group of young people looking a mix of nervous and excited to walk out those doors and take on the world.
at one point i thought maybe i had sat unintentionally in the refugee section, as i was surrounded by somali and sudanese women in hijab and nepali grandmas in saris. then, looking around, i realized with a smile that the entire auditorium was the refugee and immigrant section. what a different, bigger, more beautifully diverse world than the one i grew up in.
towards the presentation of diplomas, a congolese client of mine in a suit, wax print tie and hat wandered by and took a seat next to me. we don't share much language, but when a beautiful girl with a huge smile walked across the stage as her name was announced, he beamed and repeated her name while bringing his hands to his heart. i gathered this was his daughter, and helped him find her name printed in the program. he pulled out his glasses and pointed to her name four or five times throughout the remainder of the ceremony, repeating it several times as he did so, and always with a smile. sometimes you don't need words to understand someone's joy.
i don't know why somali moms ululating as their sons and daughters receive diplomas or listening to a commencement speaker tell a graduating class of students from disadvantaged backgrounds not to blame their circumstances and to rise above them makes me choke up, but they do. and i'm not sure why being part of a diverse community makes my heart so happy, but it definitely does. i'm grateful to these friends for opening their homes and hearts to me, and though i'm no longer working directly with them, i hope to be part of the same community far into the future.
and thanks, aurora central high school class of 2015, for allowing me to sit in the bleachers and share in your joy, too.