My second experience with high school students was having dinner with the ABC Scholars of Clinton and the Mohawk Valley…seven young men: two freshmen, one sophomore, two juniors, and two seniors; four are from New York City, one from New Jersey, one from Connecticut, and one from Massachusetts. Their newsletter says: “Since its inception in 1972, A Better Chance of Clinton & the Mohawk Valley has graduated more than ninety young men from Clinton High School. They have continued their education at colleges such as Clarkson University, Cornell University, Columbia, Fordham, Gettysburg, Hamilton, Ithaca, Macalester, MIT, Princeton, Rollins, Siena, St. Lawrence University, University of Rochester, and Union.” The boys are welcomed into the community and assisted by students from Hamilton College. I had such a great time with them. Had one humorous exchange as a result of a generation gap: A young man introduced himself, “Hi, I’m O’Neal.” Simultaneously we spoke…he said, “Like Shaquille” as I said, “Like Eugene.” I know who Shaq is, but had to laugh when he said, of Eugene, “Who?” So a conversation ensued in which I explained about my love of O’Neill’s plays.
Then, over the weekend after I returned to North Carolina, I went to Banner Elk for a reunion with a senior high group I was adviser to at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Charlotte from 1977 to 1979. Those “kids” are now in their late 40s and early 50s…what a remarkable experience.
Bottom line is this. After my experiences in Clinton, NY, Banner Elk, NC, and Charleston, IL, I want more time with high school students! And would love it if I could follow up with them 30 or 40 years later…of course, given my current age, that’s not going to happen. But I never again want to deprive myself of their curiosity, their vitality, their thoughts and ideas. They live in a world of the future that I can never inhabit, as Kahlil Gibran notes in the poem, “Children,” in THE PROPHET:
And he said:
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as he loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.