Graduation and the value of stories

Word count: 719 words

Reading time: Less than 3 minutes

How my daughter’s graduation ceremony taught me about the value of stories….

I attended two graduation ceremonies last week and a dinner-dance. As the mother of triplets all I can say is thank goodness one of my three kids has been homeschooled for his entire life. One more ceremony might have sent me just over the edge.

It makes me feel like an old fogey to write this but has anyone else noticed how many people are celebrating so hard for accomplishing so little? It’s high school for goodness sake! I know high school is hard for some kids (my son and one of my daughters have learning disabilities) but I don’t think it’s the kind of event that truly deserves limousines and long ball gowns and professional makeup artists.

I mean no disrespect to my kids, all of whom worked hard, but I’d be happier about celebrating their graduation from a post-secondary institute. Yes, I know some kids don’t do post-secondary, but surely we can celebrate their achievement without acting like it’s a splashy wedding.

When I graduated, I had a ceremony in my school gym, followed by a reception in the, wait for it, cafeteria! I also had one school-sponsored dinner-dance, with my parents, at a downtown hotel. There was no prom. No limousines. No professional hairdressers and makeup artists. No “after-grad.”

One of my daughters had a similarly subdued event. She’s registered with an electronic school based in northern B.C. and submits her schoolwork by email. Perhaps because the teachers live in a small town or maybe because the class is scattered across many miles, her grad was low key. They rented a nice hall, had a short ceremony and offered catered snacks following. It was a brief and lovely evening.

In Vancouver, however, where my other daughter attends a public school, the grad “show” started in May with a prom. And because so many schools are competing for theatres and hotels, the events are held at odd days and times. Her prom, for example, was on a Monday night in May. As a result she stayed out too late to attend school the next day. Her grad ceremony, at a fancy theatre, was last Monday, from 4 to 7 pm. Her dinner dance was last Friday at a posh downtown hotel. And more parties are to come.

Anyway, all this frantic partying got me thinking about writing. We cater to students who  want elaborate grad celebrations, but how often do we strive to give our bosses and clients something beyond their expectations?

Trouble is, if we do only what’s expected, we’ll never produce sensational writing. No one will be able to say that we’re doing anything wrong. But we’ll miss the big chance to do something spectacularly right.

And, I think the secret of writing right, is to get personal. The value of stories is that they do so much more than simply convey information. The stories don’t even have to be your own. They can belong to coworkers or clients. But the more personal they are, the better.

At my daughter’s dinner dance, I heard an interesting story from another set of parents. Turns out their son had received a congratulatory card, and photos of himself as a five-year-old, from his kindergarten teacher. She’s retired now but throughout her 45-year career as a teacher she’s apparently made a habit of tracking down all her former students and sending each one of them a card and photos timed to arrive just before their high school graduation.

Cost? Less than $3 per student (although probably more than that before the days of digital photos)

Amount of organization for the teacher? Significant.

Impact on family: Priceless!

What’s a priceless story you can tell in your next piece of writing?

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I’m giving away three free apps, for the Wordflex touch dictionary produced in association with Oxford University Press. Anyone who posts a comment on my blog this week — by no later than Friday, June 15, is eligible for a draw to win one of them. (Note: You need an iPad to be able to use the dictionary.) If you’re interested, please describe why in your post. I’ll be reviewing the app on Thursday, June 14 and announcing the winners on Tuesday, June 19.