Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Senior Banquet

Sunday night I dined with a group of my favorite people.  It was the group of graduating seniors who are part of the Woodmont Hills youth group.  For over 15 years I was blessed by being allowed to volunteer with this group and I fell absolutely in love with the students who came through the doors during that time.  So it was certainly an honor and a privilege to get to be a part of their Senior Banquet.  It was a happy time.  And it was also a sad reminder.

As I have indicated before in this blog, I view mealtime and meals together as a time of community, a time of communion...a time that is special - a bonding time.  The banquet was a celebration of a many times and years spent together.  There was a slide show of each student with pictures of them through the years, activities they were involved in, pictures with friends, pictures with family members, pictures with people who were important parts of their lives.  Each student's table was covered with pictures of the student through the years, college tee shirts, pom poms and musical instruments and details that would give you a glimpse into the life of that particular student.  It's always so cool to see the creativity that goes into the table.

The Senior Banquet has always been a time of reflection for me.  It took me back to the Senior Banquet when the class from Josh Wallen's grade all had a glass of Coca-Cola in Josh's memory.  It took me back to a few years ago when there was another event next door that had a DJ and a dance floor....and how that group of seniors crashed that party and took over the dance floor.  It took me back to the banquet from the group that I had been with since the 5th grade and me not believing I had known a group of teens that long.  I was so proud of them!  That was a tough night on me!  (...but I still get to hear from many from that group)  It took me back to last year as I sat at the table with Casey and Laurel.  Nights like that are so wonderful for bringing back the memories.  It saddened me a lot because it hit home incredibly hard that from now on, with the teens from Woodmont Hills, they would just be memories...that I would no longer see these teens grow up.  That, for the most part, I would not be around to be a part of their lives.  Sad.

This event was the first time I had seen many of the students in months.  This night was obviously for them, but oh-my-word did it ever bless me.  These students truly are some of the nicest and kindest and most awesome people I know.  While I was there to honor them, they were the ones who made me feel like a million bucks.  Not just them, but even their siblings, friends and parents.

I wish I could describe these students individually and let you know how awesome they all are....everyone needs people like these in their life.  In describing them all, I would just have a long list of names and could not do them all justice.

I was able to get a big bear hug from Will - and oh how I have missed those!  Jake, even while just losing his grandmother, went out of his way to make me feel missed and special.  It was good to get to hear about Jake's college plans, though I was certain he would go to NYC and become a model... Emily Townsend, who is as sweet as Alabama Sweet Tea, well...she just always makes me feel like a million bucks.  I saw Katy and simply loved getting to talk with her a some...And I got the chance to joke around with Emily Riddle again...and catch up with Blair Thornton....and finally meet the amazing person who raised Brieonna...and hear about how Hannah wants to help kids with special needs with music therapy....and catch up with the amazingly skinny-as-crap Sterling...and have Maggie almost make me cry (only to succeed later that night).... and take some pictures with Madison and talk about her love interest (as we always do)....and get a few minutes with Seth....and get a huge hug from Woody....And see Keller dressed in a Tux....and to get a picture with Ian.... and a high-five from Ty.

The night was so incredibly sweet.  I truly went there to honor each one of those students because they have meant so much to me through the years... but they turned it around on me and made me feel so loved, so important and such a part of their lives.  This graduating class really is a great group of people!

Ashley asked me several months ago to sit with her and her family.  I don't know why, but she and her family treat me so kindly.  They include me on family things and truly make me feel like family.  At one point, our names were even next to each other in the Nashville telephone book. They let me go to football and basketball games with them.  They've invited me over to their house for the superbowl party.  They have the biggest and kindest hearts you can imagine.  It was such an honor to get to sit with Ashley and her family for dinner. Ashley means the world to me and has truly been an Angel in my life!  Today just happens to be her birthday, too...in case you want to wish her a happy birthday, send her a cake or a send her a gift certificate from Forever 21.

I wish this group the best, I wish them God's speed and a happy future.  I wish them a happy summer and an outstanding start to "the next chapter."  And I pray that God surrounds you with people in your lives who will bless your life the way you all have blessed mine.

As far as the dining out part....if every meal could be spent with people this amazing I would always be willing to pick up the tab!  To the graduating class of 2011 - you are loved.

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