“When you walk through a storm
Hold your head up high
And don’t be afraid of the dark”
Maybe you recognize those lyrics. Rodgers & Hammerstein. “Oklahoma,” I thought, but it turns out it was "Carousel."
I memorized them for our graduation ceremony when I was in eighth grade. From the vantage of the centuries since then, I can see why our teachers chose this piece for us to learn and sing in a unified voice.
It was supposed to be a metaphor for our futures, a charge to our young minds. As we sat in our folding chairs on the gym floor, the boys in jackets and ties and the girls in frilly dresses, left over from Easter perhaps, we didn’t know anything about this song other than John and Paul didn’t write it, although Elvis did actually record it.
This all came rushing back this past week when my 14-year-old had her eighth-grade graduation. In the pandemic world that meant that remarks from teachers and the awards were presented virtually, with maybe two-thirds of the students divided into classrooms.
Then everyone gathered for an outdoor picnic and social time before our vehicles lined up for the more recent sort of ceremonial processional.
The motivational speaker, a counselor of eloquence and passion, implored us with all the right words, ultimately: “Go out there and change the world, one person at a time!”
Listening at home I said a silent prayer that these teenagers could do just that.
She meant for the kids to be true and honest and project the values they had been taught under their school’s advanced academic rigor.
I was praying because the world needs intelligent people committed to goodness to come along and straighten out our journey before we stray off the path of right and go way, way, way wrong.
I have a son in college and a daughter headed to high school. I have four grandchildren either in elementary school or headed that way. And each day I worry about how awful the world will be during their lifetimes. I even wonder if the world will exist that long.
I don’t mean to be morbid. But look around you. We earnestly need young people who can find a future for mankind and foster it and further it and form it in a way that unites people in the cause of each other rather than separating them with chasms of fantasy eroding the peaks of reality.
Because that is where we are. That is what I see every day.
I watch in flabbergasted horror as people commit selfish, vicious, angry and uninformed acts against one another and society. Why? Where were their parents? Where were their teachers? Where were their brains? Where were their eyes? Where were their ears? Where were their hearts?
We see so many acts of ignorance and insolence. From what sewer line did all this gall and anger emerge? Why are we – again – attacking each other because of our differences rather than being kind, respectful and considerate?
People taunt. They scream. They spew. They assault. They point weapons. Some even preach a false theology from a pulpit of pure ungodly nonsense.
And every one of them is perpetuating fear and ignorance – fear of something unknown and different and ignorant of truth.
There have always been segments of society like that. I’m not naïve. I remember the ‘60s and the way fear induced men to hang and burn others, the mindset that suggested swinging a club would knock sense into someone’s head, rather than knocking the senses from that cracked skull.
It was awful. But now it is so much worse and so much more ominous because we ought to know better. We ought to have graduated from that lack of class, but clearly we failed.
And now clubs are being swung at the very pillars of our society, our democracy, our goodness. The furious and the moronic would rather tear down what we have built than to find a way to coexist and improve the structure.
It’s into this mindset that we were sending these eighth-graders. They know a heck of a lot more about everything than I knew at their age. But one thing I did know then: The future didn’t scare me, because I knew the greatness of God, the grace of mankind and fortress of freedom would withstand, with both omnipresence and omnipotence.
“Walk on through the wind
Walk on through the rain
Though your dreams be tossed and blown
“Walk on, walk on
With hope in your heart
And you’ll never walk alone”
Those words are my new prayer.
Steven Doyle is editor of the Register & Bee. He can be reached at email@example.com or 276-638-8801, ext. 245.