A view from Glen Hill: Wilton High commencement triggers memories

Here’s an especially vivid one: I sat with many in the then-new all-metal bleachers in our football stadium. Midway through, ominous clouds appeared in the distance accompanied by muffled thunder. As the skies grew ever more threatening, the recipient of the graduates’ outstanding teacher award gave her engaging acceptance remarks quickly while glancing warily over her shoulder at the menacing thunderclouds closing in. Then a nearby lightning burst and resounding thunderclap convinced all (especially us in the bleachers) that the time had come to beat a hasty retreat to the fieldhouse!

Substantially more profound observations, though, come from recalling how much our graduating seniors have accomplished in so many different ways. We have important measures of accomplishment in the scholarship, leadership, and character awards conferred at the academic awards ceremony, in the fine and performing arts awards similarly conferred (and in our high school’s brilliant production of Les Misérables and its delightful year-end Pops Concert), and in the athletic awards earned, including the state championships won this year by our girls’ field hockey and tennis teams and boys’ lacrosse team.

But perhaps the highest accomplishment of all — using the words of Nisia Todd as the Nick Zinicola Scholarship was conferred at the academic awards ceremony — is to learn how to “live deeply.” We all know more than a few graduating seniors who have accomplished that, whether they have received an award for it or not. We also know how much we owe to our school educators for enabling and motivating from early ages that living deeply. But to others in our community much credit also belongs, including coaches, civic group youth leaders, adult leaders and volunteers in children’s and high school theater productions, and the staff and volunteers of our town’s Youth Services and Parks & Recreation Departments, faith institutions, the Y, and Trackside.

The result is young people who live deeply notwithstanding the demands of a complex and interconnected world — who put their hearts into what they do and who care enormously about others. Whether it’s giving their locks for Lyla, or working on a meal-packaging line, or serving in a soup kitchen, they excel in doing good in a community that understands the need to reach out even as it also “reaches in” to those in need right here with food pantry, affordable senior housing, and scholarship programs.

My own most direct experience with graduating seniors who live deeply comes from observing them at church where they sing in choir, assist in teaching church school, acolyte, do readings of scripture in worship services, and work on outreach projects to those in need. One, Caroline DeAngelis, put it this way in her moving senior sermon, “Giving back to the community in an effort to make someone’s day a bit brighter has become a major part of my life and makes me happy in ways that nothing else can.” I’ve seen these seniors week by week exemplify the best in our faith tradition as they reflect lives lived deeply.

And three Sunday ago, I got to see our graduating seniors joined by alums home from college, graduate school, or, in some cases, first jobs. With them were children from second grade on up, and adults as well. All joined together in an 80-person choir whose purpose was to celebrate, in a glorious service devoted to music, Rodney Ayers’ 20th anniversary as music director, organist, and choir director of St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church.

People of all ages in the congregation love the music he creates and are captivated by his brilliance in doing so, and that is especially so for those many young people who have participated in the choir experience and who are the beneficiaries of his instruction, encouragement, and caring over the years. His example reminds them of the excellence to which they themselves can aspire in whatever they undertake. That is a lesson not lost as they grow older.

One of the eight anthems sung during this celebratory service was Aaron Copland’s The Promise of Living, which includes this passage by lyricist Horace Everett that expresses beautifully the fruits of living deeply: “The promise of growing in right understanding is peace in our own hearts and peace with our neighbor.”

Our graduating seniors have grown through our schools and also through those across our whole community, of whom Rodney Ayers is one of a number of shining beacons, who have enabled them to understand so well what living deeply means and what its fruits in their lives can be.

Mr. Hudspeth lives on Glen Hill Road.