Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Reaching the Top of the Slide

Lovely Girl and Boy#1
For most of his life Boy#1 has been the kid for whom school was easy. He approached each class, each year, each stage of his education, as if he were playing on a slippery slide. Some subjects were a little more difficult than others, but usually he was the one teachers looked to as the curve-setter, practically yelling "Wheeeeeee!" as he flew down the chute and vaulted to the next class.

That was true until he entered law school.

Even though Boy is analytical and thoughtful and a wonderful writer, law school had been different. Professors weren't just looking to teach, they were also looking to harden their students to the rigor of the courtroom, and a three-year boot camp that added intense competition and and a certain degree of intentional humiliation to the stress of upper-level academia turned One's normal love of learning into something completely different. The playground slide suddenly was reversed and instead of sliding with the wind in his hair, he was grabbing the sides of the chute and bracing the rubber soles of his sneakers against the metal to try to climb back up.

It was enough stress, in fact, that he had told us he wouldn't be going through commencement ceremonies; he just wanted out of town as quickly as possible. But he knew how difficult this spring had been for his father and me, so at the final moment he decided that he would walk across the stage to receive official recognition of graduation. The moment wasn't important to him, but he knew it was to us.

We didn't know until we were seated in the auditorium that One and his classmates had been given the opportunity to give personal shout-outs in the commencement program. Most were standard awards ceremony fare--"Thanks to mom and dad for their support, and hook 'em, Horns!" and "I couldn't have done this without my wonderful fiance."

We read through a few of them, then turned to the back page, the location to which alphabetical order has always doomed our family, and a lump came to my throat. Our son's dedication was a quote from Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," a movie he's watched countless times with his father:
"I wouldn't give you two cents for all your fancy rules if, behind them, they didn't have a little bit of plain, ordinary, everyday kindness and a little looking out for the other fella, too."  
Then the graduates began to process and our son was at the front of the group. He had been chosen by his classmates to deliver the invocation, the only student-elected representative on the dais. His prayer was thoughtful and inclusive, reminding these future attorneys that their focus must be on people and not on profits. He called on God to guide their attitudes as well as their endeavors.

"Help us to remember the promise You made in Isaiah," he said.

I gasped. For as long as they've been able to read I've sent the Boys off to big events with Isaiah 41:10. If they were going to math contest, or taking a PSAT, or leaving for college, I reminded them of their roots by taping a verse card to the back of their calculators, sliding the reference into a backpack, tucking it into their hands. And as One read the words, tears leapt from my eyes.
‘Do not fear, for I am with you;
Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you, surely I will help you,
Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’
Boy#1 did not finish law school as the top-ranked student in the class, but he finished. When he could have quit, he didn't. He worked harder than he thought was possible, with kindness and looking out for the other fella, and as we wiped our eyes and watched him receive his hood Saturday we could not have been prouder.

He had reached the top of the slide.


  1. LOVE this post. So sweet it made me teary! :)

  2. So wonderful. You raised an amazing young man, MomQueenBee.