Archive for Thursday, June 1, 2006

Roles change but values remain same

June 1, 2006

Baseball, track, and choir honors mark the passing of this year at Eudora High, along with graduation from both the high school and the Community Learning Center. What an impressive and motivated group of young people we are sending off into the world this year.

Recently in The Eudora News, Patrick Cady wrote a phrase that resonated with me, stuck in my mind and provoked a lot of thought. He said that our current group of graduates had the "support of the entire town to help them complete this stage of their education."

Whether that support is considered as welcome or intrusive -- as it might seem sometimes in a small town -- it will always be there for our graduates.

They say small towns don't forget and that is true. But small towns, for no other reason than community pride, also wish the best for their graduates and offer second chances generously to those who don't succeed the first time around.

How often we see our own "40 somethings" who were once part of another high school graduating class, and who may have needed a second chance as youngsters, stepping up as responsible leaders in our community. Small towns offer the kind of support we so often hear about in the phrase "It takes a village."

This group of graduates may decide to make their mark in a significantly different manner than did their parents and grandparents. The future looks even more challenging these days with so many of our established traditions and values under siege. In the 1950s, it was much easier to decide what path to take simply because there were fewer choices -- especially for women. It was usually marriage and family after high school or teaching and nursing.

Some of the women in my own class did distinguish themselves in other areas, but most of them eventually ended up raising families. Those who established a career often left it behind until the urge for something more emerged in their 40s, prompted by the emerging and controversial women's movement.

Since then everything has changed. Now girls are attending college in larger numbers than boys and there is concern that there won't be enough men graduates to take over the positions that are traditionally theirs.

The tables have been turned for men as well. I recently saw a notice in the Lawrence Journal-World asking for nominations for your favorite "Stay at Home Dad" for Father's Day. Such a young man is part of my coffee group whose members are mostly retired. Jim Russo, father of his 2-year-old son Nile, has been coming to our coffee group since Nile was an infant and we have watched him grow up, learn to walk and listen intently as he has formed his first sentences. He is known as the "Muncher Baby" and we feel a special fondness for him as he enriches our lives with his smile, huge brown eyes and what Jim calls his "sour pickle face," which is an eyes shut, scrunched up smile he often leaves us with as he walks past the front window of the bakery. His father is the embodiment and the spirit of the stay at home dad, even allowing Nile to experience a little living on the edge as he walks unsteadily on benches inside the bakery.

Roles and traditions change, but young people will continue to leave home to find their own roles -- whether it's to become firsts as women in men's roles or firsts as men in women's roles -- and it is fitting to salute them and to advise them to remember that no one comes to graduation on their own. In addition to parents and teachers who have walked with them each step of the way through kindergarten to "senioritis," there were some in the audience not even related who were watching as the graduates crossed that podium and turned their tassels and who breathed a silent hope and prayer that each of them find their bliss -- hopefully in a job that pays.

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