We will be honoring our graduates in worship this week. Congratulations to all who have completed high school, college or advanced degrees. This time of year always reminds me of when I attended a kindergarten graduation ceremony a couple of years ago.
I have to admit I have always wondered if it is really necessary to have a formal recognition for the completion of kindergarten. I mean having a graduation ceremony for kindergarteners seems like pausing in a 100-meter dash to celebrate the winner of the first 10 meters. They still have such a long way to go. Why bother? I am all for coming up with any excuse to eat cookies, but really? Kindergarten graduation seems to be an oxymoron like “Jumbo shrimp,” or “Good Baptist.” (Just kidding, no offense to any Baptists or shrimp!)
While I think it is certainly good to celebrate any kid’s accomplishments for any reason, I have to admit that brief ceremony really moved me as a very auspicious occasion. The school is in one of the poorest areas of Kansas City. It is located in a neighborhood with a very high drop out rate. The student body is made up of kids most of whom do not speak English at home and a quarter of whom are children of relocated refugees.
The kindergarten class I have worked with as a volunteer was the “New Comers Class,” that is made up of the kids in refugee families who have just been relocated to KC. They are for the most part families who have left terrible situations, endured years in camps and the rigorous two-year US refugee vetting process, and finally arrived with nothing except a dream of giving their children a better life in a new home. The kids who graduated were born in the camps.
To be with lots of parents and siblings and see these families from Syria, Somalia, Myanmar and God knows where else singing crazy songs together, jumping up when they heard their names called, and proudly receiving a certificate, was awe inspiring. Parents had tears in their eyes. They no doubt realized that the reason why they left their homeland and endured unknown hardships was realized in their children graduating kindergarten. I don’t know what it is like to attend a ceremony for the Nobel Prize winners, but I bet it isn’t any more meaningful. And I’m sure the cookies are not as good!