On the anniversary of my own high school graduation, I attended another graduation tonight. It was very much like any other graduation ceremony I had ever been to. But there was a difference.
Generally, this ceremony was very similar to all the other graduations that have occurred in the past few weeks. There was an opening greeting. There was an invocation of prayer. There were songs sung there was cheering. There was happiness. There were tears. There were memories. The administrators and staff all came up and talked about this year’s graduating class. They had fun words to say. They had happy words to say. They had hard words to say. And they had joyful words to say. The men in the class had nicknames like “the mechanic” and “the reverend” and other such names that stuck over the course of the time these men were here.
There was a keynote speaker. You wouldn’t recognize him. He’s not famous. But he spoke eloquently and powerfully. He spoke of his struggles on his way to graduation a few years ago. He spoke of the obstacles he had to overcome to graduate. He spoke of his triumphs since graduation. He also gave a lesson from the book of Ecclesiastes. The lesson was about how the end is always better then the beginning. And he the points below to prove his argument.
Ecclesiastes 7:8 — “The end of a matter is better than its beginning, and patience is better than pride.”
Why is the end always better than the beginning?
- at the end you’ve completed something.
- there are many times we want to quit, but if we don’t then we made it.
- not everybody makes it.
- God has a reason for enabling YOU to finish.
- once you’ve completed something you have faith in doing something else.
- your completion is someone else’s example.
- during the journey you gain so much.
- we celebrate “the end” but it’s really the beginning of something new.
- whatever you complete prepares you for something even more challenging.
Finally, it’s better to be patient than proud. In relation to the journey towards graduation, it would only serve your pride to finish early, whereas being patient enables you to complete the journey, so you don’t rush to the end! It’s in the journey that you grow and change.
Each of the graduates was invited to come up and accept his graduation certificate. And each graduate was invited to say a few words about achieving this goal. Every graduate talked as if he were the valedictorian. Every graduate thanked everyone in the room. Some of their words went something like this.
- I feel like Lazarus: raised from the dead.
- Because of this journey, I now have work, friends, growth, brothers.
- Be patient.
- I had to make a move. So I made one. I surrendered. That took hope to a whole different level. This is the first time I ever completed anything.
- This is not a completion but rather the keeping of a promise to finish what I started.
- Sometimes doing the right thing is hard.
- 90% of us will spend half our lives trying to figure out what it means to be a man.
- What I was before I graduated is what I was, but that is not who I am.
- Starting over is not an easy task.
As I said, this graduation ceremony was very much like all the other graduations that have taken place this spring. But there was a difference. All of the prospective graduates were men. All of these men are now stepping into new lives. But there’s a difference. All of these men have completed the program that was required of them. But there’s a difference. All of these men celebrated their completion of the program. But there was a difference. Some of these men had already gotten new jobs. But there was a difference. All of these men had overcome huge obstacles to get to where they are today. But there was a difference.
These men are graduated. They are no longer called “homeless.” They are called by their names:
- Dale Davis
- Julian Brooks
- Eric Burns
- Justin Cottingham
- Judah Maccabaeus
- Timothy Robinson
- Chris Swain
- Hakeem Turner
- Edmond Brown
- Ty Burrell
- Bobby Byrd
- Kevin Calvin
- Isaac Chambers
- Darrell Colton
- Lavon Davis
- James Harris
- Robert Myles
- Oliver Rollins
- Steve Sharick
- Keon Scott
- Eric Turner
- Artie Dumas
- William Reid
These are just their names. There is not enough room on this page to tell their stories. These men were graduating, but not graduating from high school or even college. But they were experiencing a new start at life.
I was honored to attend the June graduation of the Atlanta Mission. This ceremony was a the end of a process and the beginning of a new life for these men. And today represents a new direction for Atlanta Tech Blogs, which we will unveil in the coming days. I hope you will join me on this new journey.