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"Go Absentia!"
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Posted on 01/07/2009 02:16
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Joined: 05.01.07

I wrote this the night I graduated from seminary (Grand Rapids Theological Seminary, http://grts.cornerstone.edu) in May, 2004.

I was recently privileged to graduate from seminary. When the night of my graduation ceremony finally arrived, I was understandably excited. Several family members sat together in the large auditorium to share this moment with me.

When each degree was presented to a graduate, there was usually a burst of applause often accompanied with a few shouts of “way to go!”, “good job!”, “woo hoo!”, and “you go, girl!” When I received my diploma, my family whooped it up pretty good. I could distinctly hear my six-year-old son yell, “I’m proud of you, Dad!” It was a wonderfully satisfying moment.

Occasionally, the presenters would read the name of a graduate who was unable to attend the ceremony. When this happened, they would then say “in absentia” to indicate the graduate was not present. For these students, there were no rounds of applause or shouts of encouragement. After a few such quiet announcements and in one of those brief and awkward pauses, my son shouted as loudly as he could, “go absentia!” Laughter rippled through the crowd and brought the solemn proceedings to momentary standstill. A few of my fellow graduates leaned towards me and asked, “isn’t that your son?” I was mildly embarrassed.

After the ceremony was over, and I talked with my son about the event, I asked him if his uncle had told him to do what he did (I was sure my brother had put him up to it).

I was wrong.

My son didn’t know who or what absentia was. He just assumed it was someone’s last name. He had also recognized that nobody from the absentia “family” was getting any clapping or cheering. To him, that wasn’t right, and when he heard another name announced and unacknowledged, he let it rip. He wasn’t trying to be funny; he was simply trying to be an encouragement. Even if nobody else was going to say something nice, he would and he did. Quite loudly, in fact.

You know, there may come a time when you try to do something nice for someone else, and nobody will recognize your act of kindness for what it really is. Your efforts may go unappreciated or might even be misunderstood. Your motives might be questioned or misjudged. You might be even considered a source of embarrassment.

Sometimes I wonder who is supposed to be teaching who. I have often said that when I grow up, I would like to be just like my son. May I, like him, be sensitive. May I, like him, identify needs. May I, like him, be like Him.
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