My son Eric just finished graduate school. After more than seven years of college, and after starting at the ripe old age of 22, he achieved his lofty goal and received his master’s degree in special education. His accomplishment is huge being that he was never a student who found it easy to study, and in his previous educational endeavors he was not very successful. He changed the paradigm within which he lived and went on to success. He proved that change is possible if you want it bad enough. My joy and pride for his accomplishments well up from within me whenever I think of it. But this essay is only partially about Eric. It’s also about people and the basic commonality we all share.
I found myself outside Queens College in a crowd of people, waiting for Eric to arrive, (some things never change) and while feeling the excitement of the approaching event I noticed something even more profound. I noticed the incredible diversity of the hundreds of graduates and family members surrounding me. They all spoke so many languages, were of so many skin colors, and yet they all had something in common. Something that was so pervasive, throughout this environment. They all just glowed. Where else can you be and find so many people together in one place who are all just so happy, proud, and excited, celebrating an accomplishment for themselves or someone close to them. It was a universal feeling of joy. I didn’t see any negativity anywhere. And then at that moment a truth became evident to me.
What I was witnessing was not just a happy time for those involved, but a universal sharing of joy, between people whose origins are as diverse as a bed of many different beautiful flowers, and who for that moment in time forgot their daily trials and tribulations, and just basked in their happiness. Within the diversity of people from all over the world I was witnessing America at its best. This was not what I see on TV most nights. There was no anger or fear between races and populations of strangers like we see on CNN. No talk of philosophical political differences being stressed more than the similarities we all share. It was just a sharing of happiness. “Can I take a picture of you all together?” “What was your major?” “That’s an interesting dress you are wearing.” Everyone was interacting, smiling, and making eye contact.
There is a dichotomy within all people. Our daily routines are stressful, and this stress translates into anxiety, fear, feeling of separation and general negativity which sometimes make us unhappy. We fear the future, and lament the past. It’s not who we are, but it is how we think. The other side of our minds is our TRUE selves. It’s the understanding of human universality, and not division. It’s the interaction between people through love, and not fear. Our true selves filter out all the bullshit which tells us we are different from each other.
I was witnessing hundreds of people being their TRUE SELVES all at once, and all together. It reminded me not of the dichotomy of what we are, but the reality of what we can be. It was a hopeful and invigorating experience. Thank you Eric and congratulations on your wonderful achievement.