Graduates Take Heed

Several times a week, the parking arrangements in front of our house force me to go up the road, pull into a neighboring parking lot and turn around to head into town. My neighbors at the REM house -whose parking lot I utilize in order to turn around – are good about the situation, and I appreciate that.

Lately while turning around in the lot, I have noticed something amusing. In the lot is a large, green Dumpster and when I pull into the area, a head pops up out of the Dumpster. It’s a young, determined raccoon. Sometimes it has something in its mouth and other times it just scrambles out of the Dumpster, taking cover in the brush.

But this enterprising creature is not backing down from its mission to raid the ready-made luncheon plate before it. It returns time and time again. It can be amusing.

Last summer when daylight would merge with twilight, a whole family of the critters would swarm the Dumpster. We got a lot of laughs watching them drag their treasured trash to their creekbank banquet table. I’m sure this young raccoon has some relatives who will be joining him in his dining habits.

I digress. Over the course of my now 34-year career in the news business, I have witnessed and covered a couple dozen or more graduation ceremonies at local high schools and colleges. I’ve attended even more for family members including our son’s ceremonies dating back to kindergarten and culminating at West Virginia University.

I have listened to highly achieved scholars, successful business leaders, ranked government officials, esteemed clergy and everyday folks deliver commencement speeches aimed at praising graduates while also encouraging them with future endeavors. Some have been memorable. Others have left me searching for a glass of water and a nap.

Most all of the messages have a similar theme, one that suggests a bright future for even brighter young men and women. The graduates are often told to pursue their dreams, aim high and don’t forget the people who held them up when they were low or struggling to make the grades.

Many speakers remind the graduates to hold dear their friendships and be good citizens even when it’s not easy in a competitive job market. They are encouraged to be kind, forgiving, patient and loyal. All are told to be good alumni and support their alma maters.

These are all lovely sentiments and I applaud each speaker’s effort. Now I would like to offer my own advice for the Class of 2013 everywhere: Remember where you came from and don’t be afraid to succeed or fail. Be brave enough to make a wrong right and don’t give up no matter the number of disappointments. No one said it would be easy.

Take care of yourself, hold onto your faith of choice and call your parents regularly.

Be like that raccoon who, despite my regular interruptions to his agenda, keeps going back to the Dumpster. He does not give up.

Heather Ziegler can be reached at