Last week, Karin’s Mom and I attended the commencement exercises at Harvard University. After seven years of learning, writing and hard work, Karin earned her Doctorate in Education. It was very moving and joyful when Karin was “robed” and then received her diploma. I confess a few tears trickled their way out of my tear ducts. What else I can say? Karin rocks!
The “robing” ceremony was held in an auditorium with about 100 people in attendance. The awarding of the degrees took place in a huge tent in Radcliffe Yard. We were warned to get there early and reserve seats. The program was scheduled for a little after noon, so I went to the tent two hours early and secured two seats with a view. When we returned to take our seats, the tent was already packed with a couple thousand people sweltering in 85° heat.
About 15 minutes late, the processional began. First, came those receiving their Doctorates in Education, followed by those receiving Masters’ degrees and the faculty. It was a long processional. It takes awhile for nearly 800 people to march in and get settled. As the processional continued, I examined the program. It suggested that the ceremony would not be too lengthy. Because I had been to a previous commencement at Harvard, I knew that the program was deceptive. After an address by the Dean of the School of Education, all degree recipients would have their names read, walk across the stage, receive their diplomas and shake hands with the Dean. Exactly 701 graduates would go through the process. Broiling in the “oven” tent would last for, at least, a couple of hours.
Born with very little patience as well as recognizing that an air conditioned hotel room was a mere three blocks away, I hatched an escape plan. Since those receiving their doctorates went first, after they received their degrees, my plan was to exit, as if I was heading for the Porta-Potties. When the time to escape arrived, however, I couldn’t do it. The Dean had spoken about “Sins of Omission” in his address, but if I left early, I knew it would be a “Sin of Commission.” What if everybody left after their graduate received their degree? Only five people would have been left to see Tianxingyan Zou, the last in line, graduate. In addition, those in attendance cheered for Karin. Shouldn’t I stay and cheer for their loved ones? No “Sin of Commission” for me. I settled in for the duration
As the names were read, I was surprised that I did not lose my mind. Instead, as I watched the line move along, I was struck by the incredible diversity of the graduating class. There were representatives of every race and many nations. There were those who wheeled up the ramp in wheelchairs, while others crossed the stage with their kids in tow. When Tianxingyan Zou crossed the stage, two full hours had elapsed. It was, however, well worth the wait. Every graduate deserved his or her “moment in the sun.”
I often worry that too many people are invisible. Hardly anybody recognizes the plight of African-American young men, until a few of them are gunned down. Those who accumulate great wealth often overshadow those who live in abject poverty. One day, I asked a young man who was trying to start over after spending several years in the Rhode Island Training School (a polite name for a kid’s jail), what I could do to help. His answer broke my heart. He said, “Say hello to me when you see me on the street.”
Everybody needs a “moment in the sun!”
In this post, I bequeath to you a hope and a challenge. My hope is that every one of us will have a “moment in the sun;” that not only will people say hello to us when they “see us on the street,” but that we will also know that the sun of the Divine One’s love always shines upon us. To God, we are never invisible. My challenge is that we will try to give to those who cross our paths, a “moment in the sun.” It can really be as simple as saying hello when we see them on the street.