Charley’s World Episode Thirty-Six

This was a special day for Charley, Nellie, and Natty. It had been twelve years since Natty knocked on Charley’s door and unleashed profound change in their community. Following the documentary, the state’s flagship university made it possible for people in the community to continue to advance themselves through formal education and not have to leave the community.

The technology prototype facility had two other companies located in the area. This allowed the local vo-tech center to greatly advance its programming. This was especially important because the surface mines had run out of coal and the miners needed to upgrade their skills. The surface mine sites were now the home for new businesses.

As the economy of the community grew, its governance system changed. Who would have imagined that a former homeless boy would now be the mayor? Sam knew of the needs of the people and became an advocate for open government. The politics of fear and grievance had been replaced by those who believed in hope and renewal. The spiritual messaging in the churches had also changed.

Today was commencement day. But it was a commencement repurposed to symbolize the true meaning of a continuation of learning, not an end. Those being honored were high school graduates, community college graduates, and university graduates. But also honored were those earning certificates representing an upgrade in skills. The library had developed recognition programs for discussion participation. Those too were being honored.

Both Charley and Nellie were receiving college degrees today, and Natty was graduating from high school. It truly was a special day. There were no caps and gowns, ties or heels. Those in attendance were advised to wear comfortable clothes. There was no walking across the stage. Those who were to be recognized were asked to stand. Instead of a picture of the awardees shaking hands with an official, each person being recognized was asked to write a short description of what they wanted to learn next. These were captured as a commemorative document for all those in attendance.

The commencement event was held in the stadium since so many people in the community were being recognized. There were no speeches or pomp and circumstance marches. At the end everyone joined together and sang Country Roads.

When the song had concluded, Pastor Sophia came forward. The audience became quiet as Charley and Mayor Sam joined Pastor Sophia on her left and Nellie and Natty joined Pastor Sophia on her right. As Pastor Sophia looked out over virtually the entire community, she began: “Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today…”

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“Life depends on change and renewal.” – Patrick Troughton (actor)