Annie graduated from the 8th grade last night. Apparently, big deal 8th grade graduations are a Catholic school thing. I wouldn't know because it's all I know. I had one -- which I got to watch from the cry room because I had the chicken pox. My siblings all had them.
I digress. So, Annie graduated from the 8th grade last night. It was the culmination of about a month of special activities for her and her classmates. I wasn't nearly as teary as I'd anticipated I would be, although I was trying to figure out how she went from this:
In fact, I was pretty proud of myself for not crying at all. The graduation Mass and ceremony was really a celebration. Of the 49 kids graduating, about 43 of them have been students at the school since kindergarten. Sitting there, listening to the names of kids I've watch grow up being called for recognition of scholarships and awards, I was truly happy for the kids and the class as a whole. And I was so thankful for the role the school has played in our lives.
One of the final awards to be given was the Joseph Maley Foundation scholarship. Joseph is the son of a school/church family. He was born with multiple disabilities and died from leukemia at the young age of 18. After his death, his family created the foundation to serve children of all abilities. Though we are not especially close friends of the Maley family, I do have two distinct memories involving them.
The first was before Annie had even started school. I saw the family with their 5 boys leaving church one Sunday and made some comment about them having enough boys to form their own basketball team. I remember Vivian's good-natured laugh, even though she'd probably heard the comment more than a few times.
The second memory is from when Annie was in second or third grade. The school was observing disability awareness month. Vivian and Joseph had made an appearance at the school, telling Joseph's story. It was a story that really stuck with Annie. She came home and talked about Joseph several times for the next few weeks.
The Joseph Maley Foundation award is given each year to a student who has shown integrity, kindness, quiet leadership and openness to all people, regardless of abilities.
Of course because this is my blog, you've probably figured out that Annie won this award. However, I didn't have the benefit of that insight sitting in the church last night, so I was taken by surprise when last year's winner called Annie's name.
Here is what was said about Annie:
"This year's recipient was nominated by her peers and teachers. She is described by her teachers as patient, nurturing and a leader; she has learned from her experiences with her family and her classmates how to treat every person with compassion. Whether it's being patient with her kindergarten buddy or helping one of her peers, she reflects the best in each of us."
Ok. So that got me crying.
Mike and I were talking about it this morning and what he said really sums up the pride that I feel. He said that the best part of Annie receiving the Joseph Maley Foundation award is that it wasn't something she had to compete for. It is a recognition of who she is already is as a person (well the part of her that is not the snarly 14-year old who was rearing her attitude earlier in the day).
One of the youth ministry staff posted this on Annie's Facebook wall:
Congrats Annie! I was sitting across from you and as they read the description I thought they were talking about you and I could see you saying to someone "it's you, it's you" and then the look of shock on your face was priceless! That was why you won...b/c you never even suspected that you might, you just treat others that way naturally. Always keep that attitude!
And while I think most of credit for this amazing kid goes to grace from God, I am glad to know that maybe the job Mike and I are doing raising her and her brothers is not too shabby either.