There is a mixture of emotions filling the air today. Parents find their seat in this crowded auditorium, while we seniors inhale one last time nervously, before we cross the stage but I wonder if this is all a dream.
At one time I was excited about leaving these walls of brick and boring classes but now I don’t know what I feel. I’m relieved to see familiar faces but missing my best friend.
Mom comes over to me and whispers, “You forgot something.” She places the object in my hand and adds, “You can do this.”
Without even looking I know what it is. Tears begin to sting my eyes. Why did she have to bring this now?
My hands are frozen and I look around wishing I had an escape route. I can hardly breathe.
Images begin to unwind like the film in Mr. Louis’s old movie projector in Science. I remember just six months ago sitting in Journalism class.
After hearing about several tragedies at other schools, where students and teachers were killed or injured, my best friend Nate and I had decided it was time to do something.
We discussed the ramifications of bullying and verbal abuse at lunch “It has to stop somewhere”, Nate was right.
“I have an idea”, I said enthusiastically. “We could have a column that will encourage students to open up about peer pressure and abuse.”
That was just the beginning.
After, Mr. Belmont, our journalism teacher agreed, we wrote an article about the lack of respect at our school.
Some students thought it was stupid, while other called us “fanatical Christians.”
I had never thought myself to be one. I often compromised my faith by trying to be like everyone else in how I dressed sometimes or what came out of my mouth when I was around others.
Slowly though things at Emerson High began to change. We even started an after school group that Nate led, where students could come and just talk.
I never had paid much attention before but he always seemed to have a silver cross around his neck.
“Why do you wear that everywhere?” I asked him. “It reminds me to carry on and what Christ did for me.
I figure if he could give so can I.” Nate’s eyes lit up when he talked about his faith.
That night I began to thumb through my photo album filled with pictures of Nate and me.
We had met in seventh grade when I moved to Emerson Middle School, where life as a freckled face twelve year old was miserable, until Nate introduced himself at lunch. After that, we became inseparable.
Nate was always encouraging students to come to church. I was one of his invites. During my freshman year, while at youth group I gave my heart to Christ.
“Now comes the hard part,” Nate had whispered. I just looked at him puzzled.
Over the next four years I would find out just what he meant. It was time to pick up my cross.
I hadn’t really thought of myself as a “cross carrier”.
It was easy to sing songs and listen to the pastor, however, I never felt comfortable about sharing my faith like Nate. He was so charismatic.
I want to reach out to others like he does.
“Lord, I need you to make yourself real to me and please help me to be a light.” I prayed as I lay in bed.
The phone rang abruptly waking me from a peaceful sleep. My mom yawned as she started for the phone.
“Don’t answer it,” I cried out. Somehow I knew what had happened.
The next several hours was a blur of going to the hospital, talking with Nate’s parents and the long quiet ride home.
He had been in a car accident and now he was gone.
“Maddy,” one of my classmates nudges me bringing me back here. I’ve missed a lot of this commencement.
I start for the podium and look back at mom’s gentle prompting nod. Mr. Belmont takes the microphone.
“This year two students in my journalism class decided to make a difference. Maddy and Nate challenged us to respect one another."
"We will never forget Nate or what we’ve learned.” Before I know it people are rising to their feet applauding.
Tears are flowing down my face.” I won’t forget the cross Nate,” I whisper and slowly put the chain around my neck.
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