This is the season of graduations, a time of ends and new starts, a time to hope and look back.
So it was June 6 at the Pre-K moving up ceremony of my granddaughter Sheilla Clifford from her year at Middle Township Elementary No. 1 before starting kindergarten in the fall. There were four classes on stage at the Performing Arts Center, the Class of 2032.
They sang songs, waved at parents and other family members, and did what children do, chatter among themselves. Some were boisterous and outgoing, some retiring, some too shy to look into the crowd.
There, I thought, is the future of Middle Township, indeed, of Cape May County.
They are starting on the road we have all traveled. What awaits them? Who can say?
Each child was individually recognized, to have his or her moment of glory, a time to shine. It was asked that applause be held until the conclusion.
Some youngsters bounced up like a piston. Others were reluctant to stand when their name was called. Still, others seemed reluctant to stand, but did so grudgingly.
Some wore their small white caps on the back of their heads, others down in front. In short, they were each a mirror of their early start in life.
At the conclusion of the ceremony, as the children were taken from the stage to seats in the balcony where they awaited being picked up by a parent or guardian, a slide show was presented that encapsulated the year.
It was that collection of slides of young faces, enjoying activities throughout the year, and especially of their eyes.
The eyes are what captivated me. As they flashed across the screen, making a mess eating chocolate, holding up dyed eggs, trying to catch snowflakes on their tongues, I wondered about the world we are leaving them.
Knowing the many pitfalls that potentially await those children, I thought of the values that they were taught and will hold. The Bible admonishes, "Bring up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it."
Even sinister governments know the value of capturing young minds. Break the children away from their families. Don't let them think "errant" thoughts. Let them know the government's way is the best way, "and when they are old, they will not depart from it."
That's a fact that no parent or guardian can ignore. It is easier to correct a child at a young age than one who is 21 years old.
Let's be honest, by that time, the "concrete has already hardened."
Will illicit drugs capture any of those young children, so innocent and happy, before they will walk across the stage as graduates of the Class of 2032? As a community and society, we must exercise every avenue we know to keep them away from those murderous chemicals that rob young lives too soon.
As the famed "Pomp and Circumstance" by Sir Edward Elgar played, as it has many times this month in countless venues, I had to think of the words as those tiny feet crossed the stage.
"Land of Hope and Glory, Mother of the Free,
How shall we extol thee, who are born of thee?
Wider still and wider shall thy bounds be set;
God, who made thee mighty, make thee mightier yet,
God, who made thee mighty, make thee mightier yet."
Let that be our prayer for, not only the children of the Class of 2032 of Middle Township, but of all children in this county, state, and nation.