With his shaking right hand, Steven moved the tassel to the other side of his graduation cap. Like many of his classmates, Steven had mixed feelings about graduating from high school.
This day...this very special day brought attention and recognition. Talked about all year, this day celebrated accomplishment and success.
But this day also brought sadness and finality. Steven knew that his life away from the familiar school would bring uncertain changes but he didn't stop smiling as he looked around at his classmates and teachers he had known for years.
A household name, Steven had been known by many folks in the Fort Mill community since he was a little boy and they shared his bittersweet emotions because they knew how much Steven loved going to school. Developmentally delayed, Steven struggled academically and as a young man growing up in a low-income, single-parent home, Steven's opportunities for the future appeared bleak and limited.
"He was always so happy," the teachers reported. "He made me happy just to be around him."
"I could count on Steven to make me smile," the principal reminisced. "I don't think he ever missed a day of school."
The cafeteria workers remarked on how mannerly and pleasant Steven was when they served him his lunch. "He never complained and always ate everything!"
Because the football coach knew how much Steven wanted to play for the high school football team, he made him an honorary member and allowed him to sit on the sidelines with the players during the Friday night games. It was easy to spot him wearing his blue and yellow jersey and eagerly giving water to the players as they ran in from the field.
A proud employee of the local Winn-Dixie grocery store, Steven bagged groceries with perfection and never failed to offer the customers a bright smile and a "Have a Nice Day!" The manager noted that people would often get in Steven's line because they knew he would take his time and bag their groceries with care.
"Pomp and Circumstance" began and I looked across the sea of graduates. Many of these students had been recognized for their academic success. They had received scholarships and awards or learned specialized skills that would allow them to go to college, technical school, work, or travel abroad. Yet, as Steven's teacher, I felt an overwhelming sense of pride and humility as his name was called.
Steven had achieved success long before this special day...his ability to greet each day with a smile and his commitment to care deeply about others was a lesson that guaranteed success - even when the future seemed so uncertain.