If your house caught on fire and you could run back in and save one material thing, what would it be? For me it would be the diploma encased in a modest black frame, hanging in the hallway. Although the frame is humble and the ink barely visible, it is one of the most valuable items I posses. I did not earn this diploma. I didn’t have to labor long hours reading texts that I could barely comprehend or write blithering term papers that proved I had researched a given subject. No, this cherished document was simply bestowed to me. It came packaged in a steamer trunk; tucked away for safe-keeping or maybe just forgotten about. Its importance is immeasurable.
The embellished font proclaiming it as a Testament of Graduation speaks volumes. It was presented to her on the 21st day of August 1909. She was probably in her teens. The bright orange seal declares it as official. She had accomplished an education. A rarity for anyone of this era especially a woman.
The value of this document has grown since I’ve procured it. At one point it stood for a single accomplishment. A formal education. This is an important merit but maybe not the most important. It now proclaims itself as so much more. It stands as proof of determination, self-confidence, courage, drive and ambition.
The aforementioned traits, one might argue, are intrinsic and innate to the human spirit. Maybe so, but without a model to emulate, they lay dormant. They are just words with no real meaning- a template without instructions for assembly or use. It is the all important and somewhat daunting task for a parent to ignite these characteristics, first by example and then by encouragement.
If my theory holds any truth, this means that the original owner of the diploma was also a witness to acts of determination, self-confidence, courage, drive and ambition. It seems I come from a long line of this. I’ve been fortunate. I’ve had abundant examples of each of these attributes surround me in my life. Parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts and friends, all helping me to define and understand how to implement and emulate these qualities in my own life.
Lizzie Clough never wore her confidence on her sleeve. Her diploma tucked away for safe keeping. But I display it in my home as a bold reminder of the awesome ability we have to influence others and the weight others have had in my own life.
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