Graduation never ends! While the UAS commencement ceremonies are over and local high school graduations will soon be, life is full of graduations — of moving on and forward.
With high school graduations this weekend, I keep thinking about the Dr. Seuss book, “Oh, The Places You’ll Go!” — one of the classic gifts for graduates. It is amazing to me that high school students begin to think about what they will do after graduation earlier and earlier. Kids seem to be making far more plans in advance than we did growing up. There seems to be far less room for spontaneity and hanging out. Life for many of us is full of more plans than we have time.
Of course, people are traveling more these days. Trips for language classes, sports, leadership and many other reasons offer adventures and exploration. It is easier to actually visit these places of which we dream than it was in “the good ol’ days.”
Words of wisdom for those in transition: take the time to say good Goodbyes. The way we say goodbye will affect the way we view the whole experience. We need honest and present closure. If we resist our need for goodbyes, we deny the value of the experience itself. We can discount the relationships we’ve had and how they have blessed us. If we sugarcoat things and fail to even acknowledge any negative or challenging parts of our experience, then others will almost always distrust everything we say as false. When we can name that things are not perfect, but are still something we value, we share an intimacy that blesses us even as a relationship may be ending.
Evaluation is a process that many of us may resist, but healthy evaluation can help us celebrate and deepen life. We can learn and grow further as we stop to ponder what worked in a situation and what would we do differently.
These turning points in life provide frames for us to hold the experience and even enhance it.
I’m facing another turning point. In a month. June 20, I’ll be on the ferry moving to Ukiah, Calif. to pastor a church there. In the time I have left in Juneau, I hope to honor the community connections I’ve made. I’ve appreciated many things about living in Juneau these three years. The spirit of adventure, love of wilderness beauty, and celebration of natural resources are key qualities most of us share in common. I have loved having a local newspaper that shares great nature pictures and covers our local life fairly well. There are not many places in the world where traffic stops as orcas swim past and strangers become comrades while bear watching.
We are not a perfect community as we wrestle with differences of beliefs, politics, our higher than national average rates of alcoholism and other addictions, domestic violence, suicide and mental illnesses. Community and ministry face these challenges to some degree most places.
While the weather has been hard on my health and our beautiful community is challenging for visitors at times, there are many things for which I’m grateful. It has impressed me how dedicated many community members are to creating community and keeping opportunities open. Thank you to all who shared in the community events in which I’ve participated leading: the Interfaith Thanksgiving service in 2008, the Blessing of the Animals, the Interplay improvisational movement, voice and stillness workshop and classes, the Discovering Your Creative Self classes, the clergy ecumenical Bible study, the founding of a Slow Foods group and the varied ministries of Aldersgate and connections with other faith communities.
I’ve appreciated sharing in this community with all of its riches. I hope you will come celebrate and bless my three years in Juneau, June 19 at Aldersgate Untied Methodist Church at our 10 a.m. worship service with picnic following.
• Shook is the pastor of Aldersgate United Methodist Church