ToquiNotes: As You Prepare to Graduate, Take a Picture Perfect Moment to Tell Your Friends Thank You

By Jeff Toquinto on May 27, 2023 from ToquiNotes via

Editor’s Note: This is a slightly modified version of my blog that has ran every year on graduation weekend. Please SHARE this with your friends and if you have a child that has already graduated, is graduating today at BHS or any other school, ask them to read it. With the COVID-19 pandemic still somewhat in play, it takes on even more importance.
It’s a big weekend, by any measure, for so many students here in Bridgeport. Today, after more than a decade of formal education, they’ll be walking across the stage at Bridgeport High School’s Wayne Jamison Field to receive their diploma and head out into the world. For many, it’s the first step they’ll take in tackling the world alone and all the lessons, blessings and cruelty that comes with it. 
I should say, before I go  further, I’m no expert of ways of the world. I’m not formally trained in any type of psychiatric education or, for that matter, any matters of the mind or soul. I’m a lot like most of you who may happen to read this blog today. I’m just flesh, bone and emotion of contents no greater or smaller than you. Yet, I feel somewhat qualified to ask a favor of any parent, student or anyone else today if for no other reason than I have the outlet of this blog for anyone willing to click on to the link.
Read what is here. Ask your child to read it too. Take it to heart because it’s personal, and I’m betting what I’m about to tell you is something you already know too much about or find dread in its ultimate or renewed arrival.
Before going further, take a look at the pictures included here. I’m betting there’s a whole lot of people there you have no idea who they are. They’re not all from Bridgeport. Who they are isn’t as important as that each and every one of us has a picture like this. Collectively, it’s our social circle.
Just for point of reference, I’m the guy standing to the far right in the top photo. This is my 20-year High School Class Reunion. In the second photo, that's me second from left at my 10-year reunion. In the third photo is me actually in high school in 1986, while in the fourth photo I'm again second from the left back when we graduated from junior high. And at the very bottom is a photo from my senior year of high school where a bunch of friends decided to go to Philadelphia to see the 76ers and Celtics play one another. These pictures include friends and family and for clarification purposes, the lines between friend and family are beyond blurred. Mentally, the lines no longer exist. Friends become family and they become as important to you as real blood.
Today, some graduating may realize it. Some may not. The graduates are walking across the stage with those they’ve shared stories and moments with for the last dozen years or longer – their friends – and those individuals are in large part the reason who they are at this moment. In ways you don’t realize at such a young age, your entire persona and value system is at least partially shaped by those you call friend.
Take a moment today if you are a parent to remind your son or daughter just how important their friends are to who they are. They already know of the value of mom, dad and family even if they might not openly extend those emotions in any type of verbal or non-verbal form of expression. What they may not grasp is the value of their friends, and not because they don’t find their friends important. Rather, the value is something that usually only time away from their friends typically enhances or simply not having them imprints the importance on one’s mind. That, as they graduate, will be happening in the months and years ahead for many. 
Ask your child to tell their friends how important they are to them. If they’ve went this far in their lives without losing someone they called a friend, they’ve been blessed already. If they’ve lost someone in their lives and never had a chance to – even in the most obscure way – let that person know how much they meant to them, I’m betting it’s something that even subconsciously they’ll regret.
While I don’t believe my life has been impacted at levels differing from others due to the loss of a friend, I can tell you that as I've reached 54 years of age, I’ve seen too many of my friends – dear friends – go well before their time. My saving grace, with the exception of a few I lost way too young to even understand the emotions and value of friendship, is that they either left this Earth with us on good terms or I had a God-given chance to tell them how I felt about them as a friend.
If you’re a parent, have your child tell their friends today how important they are. If you’re a youngster reading this, take the initiative yourself. It’s not too late to do it, until it’s too late.
As a reminder, take a good look at that top picture again that was taken nearly two decades ago and the one taken 27 years ago of my first class reuinion in the second photo and the third picture is from 1986. The bottom two, as mentioned, are from junior high in 1983 and from 1986 in Philadelphia. Sadly, the pictures have changed. Not everyone in the pictures are with us anymore. Losing that person shown in every single photo and a dear friend shown in the last photo reminds me so much of my own mortality and the importance to let my friends know I love them. Even better, because I did let my friend shown in every photo that I lost know that I loved him before he passed, the picture also reminds me of more than four decades of friendship and wonderful times.
I can assure you that your picture will change too. It’s an unfortunate certainty of life. Take time this weekend to let those in your picture know how you feel about them. It’s as good a time as any and will make things always be picture perfect.

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