By Bruce Stambaugh
Milestones. We all have them throughout our individual lifetimes.
These life events deserve recognition. There is no better time than the present to acknowledge and celebrate them as they occur.
The start of a new school year is such an occasion, and many of my friends on social media celebrated that event. Multiple posts of children and grandchildren heading off for the first day of school were shared.
I joined the party.
Our oldest grandchild is a child no more. Evan began his high school experience as a freshman recently. His younger brother, Davis, entered his first year in middle school as a sixth grader. Our granddaughter Maren started third grade at her elementary school.
Three students, three different schools, three different time schedules. That’s a family milestone with crisscrossing ramifications. Neva and I are glad we’re close by to help weave the way through that tangled web of unfolding activities.
Disbelief overtook the significant adults in the lives of the three grandkids. How did we reach this place in time already?
Evan, Davis, and Maren just took it in stride as if it were just another day at school. Perhaps they are the wisest of the group.
With Labor Day upon us, I’m also reminded of the importance of vocational milestones. Being recognized for loyal service to a company for an extended period of time is an honor. Some businesses do a marvelous job of employee recognition while others not so much.
Knowing I had spent my first career as a public educator, a friend asked me about my favorite memories of school. Walking those school hallways for 30 years, I wasn’t sure how to answer at first. I had had so many enriching and endearing personal experiences that I hardly knew where to start.
First of all, I loved my jobs as a teacher and then as an elementary principal. Both positions were most assuredly milestones on my timeline of life.
I remember the joy of watching my very first students file shyly into the fourth-grade classroom, unsure of how to react to their very first male teacher. Given the characters in that crowded classroom, it didn’t take long for their various personalities to emerge.
As a principal, the first day of school was a joy for me. Much of my energy and that of the support staff went into preparing for that day to ensure a smooth start to another school year.
As I reflected further, though, I realized that the most important milestones for me weren’t the first or last days of school. No, the many precious moments on particularly hectic, stressful days are what enriched my life the most. The significant memories for me were the touching ones. Gold watches can’t compete with group hugs from sweaty, sticky kindergartners returning from recess.
Anniversaries, birthdays, retirements, promotions, owning your first home, completing your first marathon race, competing in the special Olympics are but a few of society’s valued milestones. But for me, the most cherished ones can’t be memorialized in any material or monetary form.
The milestones that mean the most are at hand in everyday life happenings that we all experience. A monarch butterfly refueling on a sunflower. The unexpected grasp of a child’s hand around your finger. The moment the full moon peeks over the horizon. A bright double-rainbow arched in the sky after a fierce thunderstorm.
These are but a few of the highlights that I cherish. What are yours?
© Bruce Stambaugh 2018
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