The happiest places I know

June 2017 Posted in Columnists & Opinion

Carl SampsonIf you want to see happy people I can think of no better place to go than a graduation. Graduations are all about happy. Whether they celebrate a child’s “survival” of kindergarten, eighth grade, high school or college, every graduation is one big happy event.

Whether the student was valedictorian or barely squeaked through with a D-minus average, everyone is happy to see him, or her, walk across that stage and collect a diploma.

No matter what the commencement speaker pontificated on, it doesn’t matter. They could have read from the directions for microwaving a burrito and the students would be been fine with it.

A stroll around after the ceremony will reveal one Norman Rockwell moment after another – the students surrounded by various combinations of siblings, moms, dads, grandparents, friends, maybe an aunt or uncle or two.

What could be better?

I’ve been to a few graduations, mainly for our boys. But I recently attended a special graduation, one that I thought I would never see. 

My wife received her master’s degree in counseling. That moment, when she walked across the stage, was the culmination of years of work, and I couldn’t have been more proud.

I used to think I worked hard, but I’m a complete slacker compared to her. Not only did she have to go to a massive number of classes and do a massive number of research papers – I reckon about a million – but she also interned for a year at the Union Gospel Mission locations in Portland and Beaverton, counseling the folks who live there.

I quit counting the number of late nights, the hours of studying. To me, it was a blur of effort by someone who felt called to help people.

After the graduation, she walked across the foyer of the auditorium and – I’m not making this up – her feet didn’t touch the ground. Her classmates’ feet didn’t touch the ground, either. The scene was one big fur ball of happiness.

So often we hear about the worst in people. A scan of Facebook – which will ultimately destroy all civilization with its fake news and fake people – shows me more vitriol than I could ever imagine. People bad mouth politicians, celebrities, strangers – whoever is unfortunate enough to come onto their radar. Looking at Facebook is like looking at the rear end of mankind.

Then I go to a graduation, which is a celebration of success, knowledge, perseverance, hard work and character. And I see students, no matter the age, who did it, who ran the race and succeeded.

And their parents are happy, their siblings and friends are happy – even their broken down old husbands are happy.

This is graduation season. Colleges, high schools and other institutions of learning are affixing their imprimatur on the latest battalions of graduates. They, in turn, will descend on the world and proceed to make it a more civil, educated and better world. They will take their places beside the rest of us, who will be rooting for them every inch of the way.

It is a special time, for special people who have accomplished special things. They have achieved an education that no one or no thing will ever take away from them.

And they have found a happy place like no other.

Carl Sampson is a freelance writer and editor.

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