Note: This week, a beloved class of my students graduated from middle school. On top of that, a beloved son graduated from high school and will leave in three weeks for a two-year church mission. So, we are all a bit wistful and pensive here at bradenbell.com. We'll be starting a lot of fun stuff to count down to the release of PENUMBRAS soon, but there will probably be a few reflective and very-likely-sentimental, possibly downright-maudlin posts. You have been warned.
Every year there are two moments that I find profound and moving, and I'm even going to say sacred. Two bookend moments that I have come to treasure and watch for each year. I find it interesting that they are both moments of silence.
The first is the silence on the very last day of summer break. It's the last day before school starts. Teachers have had in-service meetings, the students have had an hour or two of orientation and then everyone goes home for one last afternoon before school starts again.
I usually have rehearsal on this day, so I often leave campus later than everyone. As I walk around, alone I notice the silence. It is a silence full and latent, a silence rich with possibility and potential. It is a stillness that precedes a wonderful storm of growth and challenge, of triumph and heartbreak and stretching and accomplishment and failure. It is the harbinger of amazing things. It is the silence that comes at the end of winter and the beginning of spring, just before the world bursts into bloom and life again.
During the coming year, children will grow. Minds will stretch and the miraculous beauty of the human spirit will be displayed in thousands of ways, small and large. And it is all contained in that short silence. To me, that silence is the embryo for all that will soon happen.
The other silence came yesterday. I walked through the theatre, past the chairs arranged for the graduates. The diplomas were carefully stacked on a table, awards and medals laid out. The speeches had been compiled in a notebook on the podium, and seats had been reserved.
That silence was different. It was equally full and charged, but it was charged not with the possibilities of the future, but the choices of the past. The choices and actions and the consequences of the past year were all looming in that silence. Accomplishments and growth, disappointments and challenges were there. The silence is rich with the quiet witness that important things had happened in human hearts. It was the silence I feel in my little rural county at the end of autumn when the farmers gather the harvest. It is the silence that comes as we prepare to reap what we have sown.
There is excitement in this silence, excitement about new horizons, and happiness in accomplishments. But there is also a feeling of relief and even fatigue. There has been hard work. There has been some struggle. And now this leg of the race is done. That is worth a sigh or two of relief. We made it this far. We'll sit to rest a spell and then move on again.
It is these two silences that the year is manifest--the silence of promise, and the silence of fruition. The silence of possibility, and the silence of finality.
I have come to cherish these silences. To seek them out, and to try to find them in my own life as I reflect on both the possibilities ahead as well as the harvest that is already in.
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Thoughts about raising and teaching adolescents. You can read the complete series here. (What in the world are Middle School Mondays?) Click here.
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