The Art of Celebration
by Heather Macleod
Do you remember your favorite birthday party? What stood out to you the most about that party? Was it the food? Was it the decorations? Maybe it was a favorite gift you received or a surprise guest that came you weren’t expecting. I can tell you from personal experience, it wasn’t the gift or food that I remember. It was the thoughtfulness that went into choosing the gift or the way that I felt seeing that someone picked my favorite foods that has stuck with me through all the years. It was the feeling that I was known and chosen to be celebrated.
One of the greatest honors in academia is getting to celebrate the hard-fought victory of college graduation; walking across the stage, hearing your name called and knowing that those who love you are in the crowd cheering you on. This is a long-awaited rite of passage that 2 of our THRIVE girls did not get to experience this year. Diana and Jenna* both earned their bachelor’s degrees, and pre-covid, were counting down the days to their graduation walk. But it could not happen this May. The days leading up to graduation were bittersweet, as the joy of being done was finally a reality; the frustration of not being able to celebrate with the people they love dominated the day.
Our men and women in the THRIVE program work so hard. They not only attend our required meetings and OCU events but are active in their schools, jobs and communities. Many of our residents have had to overcome challenges that their peers have not had to: abuse, homelessness, financial insecurity, loss of family and a variety of other things. Not getting to walk at graduation, well sure, it’s a bummer for everyone, but for our girls, it’s another loss added to a long list of losses.
As a team, we determined that even amidst the disappointment, graduation day would be a celebration!! We celebrated with carefully chosen food (with good vegetarian options for Diana). Flowers and balloons (because Jenna loves balloons). Cheesecake (but not the fancy kind, the regular kind because that is what their favorite is) and homemade cookies. We were able to provide a space for a couple of loved ones to speak about the graduates. It wasn’t about the details of the party, it was about the love poured into each element, because these girls are so worthy of being loved and celebrated.
I hope that when these women look back on this strange graduation day, they feel the warmth and love poured out onto them. Because when I look back on Covid-19 and the year 2020 of course I will remember loss, but I will celebrate the gains. Getting to know the women in THRIVE, walk along side of them and be invited into their lives, well, that is worth CELEBRATING. My life is forever touched by the lives of these women. I know as they go out into the world and their chosen professions they will be conduits of love and agents of change.
Congratulations Class of 2020!
May you know you are loved and celebrate those around you well.
*names have been changed for privacy*