At our own graduation, at Constitution Hall, I sat next to Michael and felt the odd push/pull of emotions that day elicits. As the last few kids walked across the stage, I turned to him and said, “We’ll probably never see each other again, but I want you to know how much I’ve enjoyed sitting with you these four years.” He agreed and we shook hands and I’ve never seen him since.
I miss that kid.
My high school hosted freshmen orientation today. It began with an assembly, where the Class of 2019 was given the usual advice to get involved, try their best, be kind to each other. They were then sorted alphabetically and escorted by upperclassmen to their homeroom classes to receive their schedules before they briefly visited each class.
This year I have a freshmen homeroom. In four years, when they walk across the stage at Constitution Hall, I know I will love each of them. I might love them already, with their eager smiles and funny questions and their enthusiasm. But I don’t know them yet. And as I gazed out at their nervous faces, I thought of Michael Fox.
I have a very clear memory of him. In our senior year we received a slip of paper announcing our class rank. I was a conscientious student and I was disappointed to be 28 out of about 450. I must have conveyed my distress in some way, because Michael showed me his slip – he was in the lower 300’s.
I didn’t feel better. I didn’t want to be higher than Michael Fox. I wanted to be higher than the 27 people ahead of me. I worried about Michael’s rank. What would be become? How would he earn a living? How would his self-esteem suffer from such an insult?
Even with Facebook and twitter, it’s impossible to keep in touch with everyone. Our graduation was almost 25 years ago and Michael would probably be surprised to know how often I’ve thought of him. I wonder how his life turned out.
I hope his low class rank didn’t matter. I hope his kindness brought him a life full of love and fun. I hope he’s happy.
I hope the freshmen starting these four powerful, profound years worry less than I did about class rank and instead find their own Michael Fox, someone outside their social circle,someone to help them see that our circles need to be much, much bigger.