June is quite a month. As I write this, we are commemorating the 75th Anniversary of D-Day honoring so many who sacrificed to turn the tide against tyranny. With a father born this same day, a mother on the day of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and a Jewish wife, it is never lost on me how pivotal the outcome of World War II has been for the life I live today.
This time of year is also about graduations, especially from high school to college or from college to whatever is next for these rites of passage. It corresponds with some sacramental celebrations of Communion or Confirmation, the Feasts of the Ascension and Pentecost, and the tail end of the spring wedding season as well.
Disaster Movies and Other Summer Hits
Out of all these possible activities going on in my community, the two I’d like to focus on are the newest HBO series Chernobyl and the high school prom season. Chernobyl is a look at the failure to face the scope and repercussions of a nuclear disaster. It’s scary because it actually happened. It’s troubling because it’s an apt metaphor for dealing with other issues like climate change or bureaucrats more interested in maintaining ideological power than facing inconvenient truths.
Proms are also like preparing for or dealing with disasters. It can be a forced moment to suddenly have high-schoolers dress up. It can lead to certain excesses and bigger problems: peer pressure to go or feelings of being left out, getting physically or emotionally hurt as different cliques or expectations come into conflict, partying too much or otherwise being made to, or having things just go too far.
Perhaps that was just where and when I grew up. In my community today, it really is a celebration. Families get as excited over it as sacramental celebrations. Secular (and consumerist) society also fawns over it. It really is a celebratory season. In many ways it’s a capstone to everything else we celebrate in a high-school student’s life and in what we also associate positively with high-school graduation.
Facebook changes my mind
I was brought nearly to tears (I kid you not) when I read a neighborhood Facebook posting seeking prom help. Two foreign born students from low income backgrounds weren’t sure if they could go or not. They were too focused on studying for the AP exams and getting into college. With all that suddenly completed successfully they could go, but only if they had some help immediately with getting outfitted for the prom.
Sure enough, the community not only pitched in to help these remarkable students, but pointed out that there were existing repositories in certain high schools or among private citizens that were created exactly for this purpose. No one in our community would miss out on this celebration for want of outfits or accessories.
There are few, but special things, that bring a community together. They cut across normally guarded lines. I was surprised and humbled to find the prom to be one of them. I can only hope with something as difficult and important as taking care of our planet, we can similarly work together instead of hoarding to protect our own against planetary catastrophe.
Another summer is upon us. Another school year has come and gone. Some of our community’s treasures are preparing to embark on new life paths, in colleges and careers. What sacrifices will they face? How well do we honor them in what we are doing to help the planet right now?
Copyright 2019 Jay Cuasay