College Graduations Remind Me of Yom Kippur

2015-05-15 – College graduations remind me of Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement—a big crowd and a long ceremony devoted to examining your life. You’re probably a little hungry, too, due to the length of the proceedings. And you’re dressed in your finest, though you may be over- or under-dressed for the weather, due to the changing of the seasons.

But I’m more interested here in the changing of the seasons of life.

Yesterday, our son Nat graduated from Beloit College with a BS in Biochemistry.

We don’t often take time to examine our lives. Most of the time the din is buy, buy, buy. Or win, win, win.

I’m tired of both.

And so it’s nice to take time to think about where we’ve been, where we’re going, and to listen to an exhortation to live a meaningful life.

Nat should be deservedly proud of his accomplishment. As a teen, Nat had a dream of becoming a doctor, but drifted from that in high school and thought it was beyond his reach. So he took a “detour” though culinary school before going to college. I put “detour” in quotes because there are no bypasses in life. Culinary school and the restaurant world were just part of his path. He became a hard-working grown up as he learned to chop vegetables. And after a few years he decided to reclaim his original dream and applied to college. Where he did great! Next stop, medical school, but who knows? He plans to spend the next year working in a lab.

I used to be cynical about the things they say at graduations. I am no longer. We don’t often take time to examine our lives and think about what we value. We are a captive audience at a graduation. We paid a pretty penny to sit in that audience. And our kids grappled with some difficult ideas to get to this point.

At a graduation, we value our kids. As painful as it is to sit through one name after the other, it all becomes worth it because our kid is one of those names.

My wife Kit and I are proud parents. Last year it was our other son Cal’s turn. Our boys have chosen things they love to do. And they’ve now taken their first steps.

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