So far, so good. My run of luck with extemporaneous speaking holds. Every time I’ve been called upon to speak as the President of the Wesleyan College Alumnae Association, I pull something out of my….thin air. Instead of sitting down in my study and crafting a wise and inspirational message, I compose in the car as I drive. My remarks are scrawled on the back of Dairy Queen napkins or written in the margins of the program.
Thursday, as I finished up my tasks at work, I pulled a pink Post-It note off the stack and scribbled, “This Little Light of Mine…” and shoved it in my purse. That was all I needed to get the idea going. You’re humming it now, right? Yeah, me too.
Before the Candle Lighting ceremony, it’s my job to give some words of wisdom to the graduating class. Something that celebrates four tough years of diligent academic pursuits. Something that encapsulates the sisterhood that we hold so dear. Something they’ll carry with them into the years after college, something that will call them back to the fold. Something with a chorus that any three-year-old can remember.
Back in the fall, I had spoken with this same senior class at the beginning of their last year at Wesleyan. The advice I gave them that day was: “Do the Next Right Thing.” They remembered! On Saturday, I asked if anyone recalled the advice and my friend Paula (who’s heading to the University of Louisville for her MFA!) hollered it out. So proud of her! They made it–they did each little thing that brought them here, to the last few days before they graduate.
But, as it is with life, each accomplishment brings us to the next…”What next?”
And wanting to answer that question for the seniors? THAT, is how I found myself doing something that scared the ever-loving shit out of me in the name of sisterhood and gifts.
I sang. I sang near a microphone. A microphone that was on and pointed at my face. I sang on a stage with 1000 people waiting to hear what I was going to sing. Gulp.
I am an expert at lip syncing. I only sing in the car by myself. Or in the shower if everyone else is out of the house. I don’t sing.
Seriously. When I realized what I had just talked myself into up there on that stage, I wanted to pass out. But I opened my mouth and croaked, “This Little Light of Mine…”
And a chorus of voices sang back, “I’m gonna let it shine!”
I croaked again, “This little light of mine…”
“I’m gonna let IT SHINE!” They were getting into it!
Bring it on home, Ashley! Sell it to the cheap seats! “This little light of mine…”
“I’M GONNA LET IT SHINE!”
Before we lost momentum, I waggled my hands in the air and they kept going! “Let it shine! Let it shine! Let it shine!”
I honestly think if we had done the second verse, Michael would have jumped in on the organ or someone would have jumped up clapping. The simple joy of that song just does something! It. Was. AWESOME.
That was the whole message I left with those young women: When you leave Wesleyan, take that light that you’ve been given here and let it shine. Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine. Because a candle can light a thousand other candles without diminishing itself.