Commencement Thoughts – Part One – Joy

June 8, 2019

June 6, 2019

Henri Nouwen wrote that “Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day.”   I agree that Joy is a conscious choice. But also sometimes Joy does simply happen to us and that was the case with Kaili.  We adopted her 16 and a half years ago and it was like God had dropped a bundle of joy – and love – into our arms and lives.  I know I struggle with lots of different emotions about things that have happened in my life, some of which I wrote about two years ago, but when I think of Kaili, I feel filled with joy.

This past weekend, Kaili graduated from her high school, The Emma Willard School.  It was a beautiful ceremony.  The head of school, Jenny Rao, did a wonderful job of honoring the graduates by mentioning each student and a characteristic about her.  Of Kaili, she said she learned not just one but two musical instruments, including the harp and shared her playing with the school on many occasions – concerts, recitals, and more. Of course, it is hard to condense the achievements of any person into a few sentences, but I thought it was nice that the head of school made the Commencement about the students.

Earlier in the week, at the Honors Convocation,  Kaili received the Senior English Prize. There the presenter had more time to speak about Kaili. In this case, the presenter was Kaili’s English teacher, who just so happens to be the daughter of Kaili’s pre-school teacher when Kaili was four, and at the early stages of her educational journey.  Ms. Daniels, Kaili’s current teacher said the following:

——
Senior English Prize Award
This is somewhat of a rare occasion for me.  When I found out who won this year’s Senior English Prize, I decided I was going to interview the student’s preschool teacher.
This preschool teacher was none other than my mother, Kim Daniels.  As it were yesterday, my mom rattled off a dossier of marvelous distinctions regarding the student. According to the true Mrs. Daniels, at the age of four, this student was “tremendously insightful, a reflective thinker beyond her years (rare for a four year old), highly motivated, possessed a quiet confidence, looked at concepts from different perspectives, was kindly inquisitive, and the harbinger of genuine kindness.”
I would love to say that the teachers at Emma were the cause of this student’s success, but as I heard my mother speak of the student, I knew that I, along with others here, have only served as guides.  This student’s talents are innate.  Throughout her years at Emma, she has anchored her English classes by
consistently providing astute fact-based deductions.  Her answers have always been eloquent, fantastically insightful, and inspiring to others.
George R.R. Martin once wrote that “A harp can be as dangerous as a sword, in the right hands.”  I am not sure how her writing looked at the age of four, but at age of 18, this student now wields a pen as if it were a harp.  She is a true composer. Her sentences are crisp and uncluttered. She is economical with her words, and yet, in all her humility, remains strikingly poignant in her prose.  She produces written essays that are quite simply “jaw dropping” and are far beyond letter grades.
It was a great honor of mine to tell my mother that this year’s Senior English Prize recipient is Kaili Ebert.

——-

This was quite a tribute to Kaili and of course made my wife and me very proud of Kaili and happy that she received this recognition.  Of course, I am proud of Kaili always and as I wrote earlier, she has brought so much joy into our lives.

And this past weekend was very  joyful. We had family join us from Rhode Island, New Jersey and Florida.  My brother Bob, the Florida visitor, came for the first time in 16 years, making it extra special.  Friends from nearby also came and we were able to have a nice celebration of this milestone occasion.   However, like the last 16 and a half years, the weekend seemed to speed by.  Kaili occasionally asks me what super power I would like to have and if I could have one, it would be the ability to slow things down at times.  I caught so many moments with my camera but there were moments  I just wanted to stop and just savor for a bit longer.

One other aspect of the weekend, admittedly, was that it was a little bittersweet since our relationship with Kaili’s school and her teachers is changing and also Kaili will soon be heading off to college.  I will miss the interactions with her teachers, many of whom I have gotten to know well. I also will miss taking Kaili to school and picking her up after 15 years of doing so.  These rides have been a joy for me, and I wish I had more years of doing them ahead.  In her elementary school years, I would try to tell her a story each day on the way to school. We invented characters and plot lines, and had so much fun.   It seems like it was just yesterday that I was taking her to pre school and struggling with the challenge of leaving her for the first time.  We made it through that and moved on to other challenges and adventures, creating lots of stories along the way, and traveling many miles too – but I will leave that for another submission.

 

So now we have our summer ahead ahead of us and more adventures planned – starting this week with a hike to the first Adirondack Peak we did years ago, and then a trip next week to Taiwan, where Kaili visited last year as part of a school language program.  After that, I am not sure, but hopefully we can choose to be joyful and I can enjoy all the minutes we get to share with each other.

 

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