Walking across the stage at a high school graduation: for most high schoolers who have reached the end of their time in school, it is simply something they do. Perhaps they feel a sense of accomplishment over having completed their time in high school and at being ready to launch into the next step of their life…but very few high school graduates think a whole lot about the actual act of walking. When Jared Brown graduated from Parkland High School, however, it was a different story; after all, most of his friends had never seen him walk before. He had hardly walked at all, in fact, for about four years!
When Jared was a baby, all signs seemed to point to him being a strong, healthy baby. Strong though he was, however, he began to miss the physical milestones his parents were expecting him to hit. First, he was only rolling one way when he rolled; then, he was not crawling when his parents expected him to be crawling. Finally, when Jared was 14 months old, the doctors diagnosed him with cerebral palsy.
If you simply spoke to Jared and did not see him or know about his condition, you would probably think nothing was wrong with him; he is an intelligent, compassionate, well-spoken young man who seems to always think about others more than he thinks about his own self (one example of this: he recently tried to convince his parents to use the spare bedroom in their home to house a homeless person; another example: he is now trying to head up various efforts to help wounded warriors). You do not hear him talking about himself or complaining about the difficulties he faces as a result of his cerebral palsy; instead, he places his focus on others!
When Jared was a child, he had no problem walking, but as he grew older, the complications from the cerebral palsy began to increase, and once he had a growth spurt that caused him to grow an incredible eight inches in only one year, he found that walking was no longer as easy as it once had been. As a result – even in spite of the fact that Jared’s physical therapist has said she has never seen anyone work as hard as he works – he has spent more time in his wheelchair over the last few years than ever before.
As graduation drew closer, however, and Jared’s classmates casually threw around the term “walk across the stage for graduation,” Jared decided this was something he wanted to actually do. Not just figuratively; no, he wanted to actually walk!
In the months leading up to graduation, he began working with a walker again, building his strength and his coordination to help him reach a point where he would be able to make that trek across the stage.
For every high schooler graduating, the day of celebration marks the accomplishment of having won the battle against those four tough years of school; for Jared, however, he walked across the stage celebrating another accomplishment as well: celebrating the fact that he was, in fact, walking.
In the future, surely, Jared will have plenty of opportunities to celebrate others – as he loves to do. But on his graduation day, for once, it was a chance for others to celebrate Jared himself!