A couple of days ago, on Sunday, May 12th, I was given a wonderful opportunity: to offer the convocation address to the 2019 graduating classes in the Faculties of Arts, Education and Theology at Acadia University in Wolfville, Nova Scotia.
As I removed the clip that held the pages of my text intact, I looked out over the sea of faces looking towards me: parents, grandparents, faculty and administrators of Acadia University, other distinguished platform guests, and of course, the recently graduated students.
My mind was flooded with two thoughts: what did the future hold for this group of (mostly) young people with newly conferred degrees? And, would I be able to present with passion and conviction my address (aka: would I mess up?)?
I delivered what I had prepared, focusing on three points: (1) remember to be grateful; (2) try to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem; and (3) choose peacemaking and practice mentorship.
We all need to learn to be grateful; gratefulness is not sexy, or innovative, or modern, but it sure is in short supply and goes a long way to creating a productive, contented, life. With equality and equity as concepts near to our hearts, and random acts of kindness part of our routine of living, we counter the trend toward entitlement. And, by sowing seeds of tolerance and acceptance, and practicing compromise whenever possible, we can all work towards being generous of spirit. I believe this is a message for us all.
As I joined the graduating students for photos on the beautiful grounds at Acadia, a young man approached me to share his own childhood story of witnessing abuse at home. “Thank you so much for what you discussed today and for the work you do,” he said, “it means a lot to people like me.” We talked about all the ways that both of us have been, and continue to be, involved in building awareness about intimate partner violence.
He shared how he had tried as a small boy to take the weapon from his father’s hand. On Mother’s Day, the day we were speaking together, he was reminded how grateful he was that she had left the violence behind and created a beautiful life for them both, free from the abuse they had suffered.
As I walked away from this conversation, my eyes were drawn to the beautiful forsythia shrubs that were in full bloom—yellow, bold and showy. Showy with a short season, I thought.
Working to end violence and to respond with compassion and best practices to all who are impacted is work that can seem never ending. It is important work. And there is always room for more to join in and help to create safer spaces for all.
Nancy Nason-Clark, May 14, 2019