The Graduation Gift

It is the graduation season. High school graduates are either preparing to go off to college, enter the workforce, or continue their search for their respective purposes in life. College graduates are preparing to execute the knowledge embodied in their degrees or to try to secure employment to repay the cost paid for preparation and opportunity. Families and friends have secured the perfect gifts to express their joy and jubilation over milestones reached. But many graduates are waiting to find out what a special family member got them. Some graduates are eager to unwrap the gift from that friend that was with them more than any other as they embarked up their academic yellow bricked road. What did Clinton get me for graduation? Not former President Clinton. Not George Clinton of the famed Parliament Funkadelic. Not Hillary Clinton. Not the City of Clinton. The graduates want to know what the community of Clinton got them for all of their hard work and achievements. I can hear the residents shout in their uproar, “What do you mean what did we get them?” I can hear the following shouts. “We cheered them on at sporting events!” “We supported senior projects!” “We raised money for them!” “We made the community safe!” “We showed them love!” “Those are our children. Who are you to question us? You are an outsider!” Yes, I am an outsider that has made an investment in a community called Clinton. Until I am appointed to another pastoral assignment, Clinton is also my community. As an outsider, I do bring a different perspective to the table. That perspective promotes a boldness to ask what is usually only whispered or suggested. “How do we keep the graduates connected to Clinton?” That gift that I am speaking of is the opportunity to remain and develop Clinton into a greater community. In speaking with many students through my ministry, I have come to understand that not everyone wants to leave Clinton, but they have no choice. The lack of job opportunities that support academic dreams; the absence of quality affordable housing; the void of entertainment options; and the perceived lack of vision or progress seem to stamp a passport for graduates to travel to destinations beyond the boundaries of Clinton and Laurens County. I am not privy to every community or business development that is being proposed. But from my spiritual development, I believe that we should write the vision and make it plain. The graduates, at a minimum, would like to know that there is a vision. The graduates appreciate the love that was poured into them in Clinton. They appreciate the closeness of the community. But they also want to enjoy progress. Growing up in Greenville, I never thought it would become a tourist destination, but it is now. Going to the Fountain Inn-Gray Court area every weekend as a child, I never thought I would see development break through that time capsule. But the growth has broken through and the development is spreading with kudzu fervor. Can we assure to the graduates that growth is coming to Clinton? If so, we stop the intellectual exodus that haunts this beloved community. If so, the graduates can open their gift. (Rev. Steven L. Evans is a pastor and lives in Clinton.)

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