Reflection: Father’s Day
The Lord brought Abram outside and said, “Look towards heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” Then the Lord said to him, “So shall your descendants be.”
I have mentioned before that one of the best days of the year for me is graduation day for Ted K. Tajima High School. This year, the graduation coincided with Father’s Day weekend, so it became a wonderful time of celebration for the ways God uses one life to impact the lives of others.
For the last two years, the graduation has been held in Little Tokyo. I’m not sure why they decided to hold the ceremony there, but it feels good, having the event in this old Japanese-American community even though the school’s student body is almost all Latino and immigrant (there were also two Filipino and two African-American students).
The principal of this school often refers to the “Tajima family.” I love that when she says this, she is not talking only about my sisters and me, but she is talking about the students, their families, and the faculty and staff of the school—and us. So I love that my Tajima family now includes people who are (or who love) kids who are almost always the first ones in their families to attend college, and who represent the best dreams of their own parents. These kids have made it to graduation in spite of fears of parents being deported, some without stable homes, some working in after-school jobs to help feed their families. Yet in this graduating class, all have been accepted to higher education, including 88% attending a four-year school. I was astounded how many have been accepted to UC schools (as well as two going to Claremont colleges and one going to Barnard), all of which are extremely competitive and continue to be top universities in the nation.
About 10% of the student body are special needs kids. By far the biggest cheer was raised for a student named Leonard, a special needs student with autism, yet who will be able to go to junior college.
Speaking to these kids and their families was the principal who remembered her own entry into college, and how she was once just like them—a young Latina student, the first from her family to go to college, entering UC San Diego, where few students in her college looked like her. She spoke like an older sister, and she felt like she needed to warn these bright young students that the journey will be difficult at times, and lonely. Her words reminded me of my father. As a high school teacher, he transformed many young people’s lives with education—yet this calling was forged out of the discrimination and challenge he faced in his life.
True to his Christian faith and Presbyterian tradition, Dad believed in the power of education to transform lives, and our calling to offer support and hope to others, whether or not we know them. The impact of Dad’s life continues to radiate out like ripples in a pool, through his church community that led to a family friend, Alliance Public Charter Schools Board member Dale Okuno, who came up with the idea of naming the school after Dad, and to all who contributed to the school. Those ripples continued out to the faculty and staff who work so lovingly and tirelessly for the students, to the students and their families, and all who will be impacted by the students. This phenomenon was joyously evident not only in the faces of the students, but in the cheers of their families. One of the first things I noticed in the graduation was one student’s cap that said “I am the product of their sacrifice.” I think all of us who come from families that struggled to make life better for us can relate.
There is a saying that comes from the Jewish tradition, and is also in the Qu’ran, that can be paraphrased as “Whoever destroys a soul, it is considered as if they destroyed an entire world. And whoever saves a life, it is considered as if they saved an entire world.”
I am so grateful for being able to witness this celebration of hope and promise each year, but the important thing to remember is that this is not unique to my father. Every one of us creates ripples around us, and with the power of the Holy Spirit, these ripples can travel out to parts and people unknown to us. We are called to work to create ripples that carry the Gospel to these folks, and it is up to us to fulfill that call.
I hope that you all had opportunity to give thanks this last weekend for your father, and if that relationship isn’t a source of joy for you, give thanks for your heavenly Father who blesses, loves, guides, protects, and works through each of us. And give thanks that whatever we offer to the family business, God can use to save so many worlds of hurting people.
Thanks be to God!