I was sitting in a big, Dallas-area civic center last Saturday as nearly 500 young men and women walked in neat lines in their graduation caps and gowns. It was a ceremony I have witnessed many times over the years.
This one meant a lot to me because Evan, my grandson, was in the line. Of course, as a grandparent, I was so proud of him and was fighting the urge to tell the folk next to me about that awesome young man.
Many thoughts were running through my mind as I watched him walk across the stage and the announcer called out his name. Evan easily could have been a victim of the grim statistics in the African-American community, where young black men have a greater chance of going to jail, dropping out of school or being killed than most, if not all, of the other racial groups in the country.
And yes, I have been concerned since he learned to drive whether he would be racially profiled by police — and don’t act like that doesn’t happen — winding up in a situation where his health and life could be compromised. Would he be able to keep his cool? He has been told that his job, no matter what, is to get home safe, even if you have to suck up some pride.
I also thought about the time my wife and I drove to surprise him at “Grandparents Day” at his elementary school in College Station, Texas. The smile on his little face was priceless, and it gave us energy when we jumped in the car and drove those six hours back home the same day.
We watched as his athletic prowess turned him into a pretty good athlete and a special football player. We groaned, though, as his grades would sometimes teeter-totter, but he always would find a way to right the ship.
In my church, the pastor always urges us to give a “hand clap of appreciation” for things. In this instance, I have to do that not only for Evan but also for Mel, my daughter. Until last year, she was a single mother.
To say it has been a struggle is to put it lightly. To say she batted 1,000 with some of her decisions would not be true. But she was right far more times than she was wrong.
Also, during Evan’s early school years, Mel was pursuing her doctoral degree from Texas A&M, working and guiding Evan.
Luckily, she was not alone. I offer another hand clap of thanks to the dozens of people who pitched in to help. They picked him up from school and from his sports team practices, and kept him for several days while Mel worked late or went on business trips.
Thanks to the great young men who served as role models and told Evan the right things to believe in and warned him when he needed to change his direction. They were crucial in his development.
There were so many friends at Mel’s side to lift her up when she was down and overwhelmed by circumstances and the mounting needs of a growing son. It took more than a village to raise Evan. It was a multinational organization.
In the end, they patched together a wonderful man.
On Saturday night, as my wife and I drove him home after his graduation party, I learned that Evan has a deep concern for the wellbeing of his closest friends and truly cares about their futures. Wow, that was awesome to see that. I wanted to hug him right then, but because I was driving, I had to delay that.
In a couple of months, Evan heads off to college, and his future basically will be turned over to him. However, I think he and his mother will share a bazillion text messages and phone calls for the first two or three weeks.
And he probably will get texts and calls from Pop and Nana, too. Of course, we are concerned about him. There are so many pitfalls out there. We hope and pray he makes the right decisions.
And when he succeeds, I know all of those people who have given part of their lives to him will be happy to send a giant hand clap of happiness his way.
Email Edward Pratt, a south Louisiana freelance writer, at email@example.com.