By Kate Cocchiarella
With Memorial Day weekend just behind us, the unofficial start to summer, I find I have plenty to reflect on. This past week I attended three graduations and two memorial gatherings. The interesting thing is not how different these events were, but how similar. The common theme in these celebrations of life is family.
It is all about family. One of the many definitions of family in Webster's Ninth Edition is "a group of people united by certain convictions or a common affiliation." I like this definition because it expands beyond the traditional nuclear family; it includes the many types of support networks necessary to survive in modern society. In today's complicated and challenging world, we need to draw support from all directions. It doesn't matter what type of family you're part of — traditional, blended, friends, school, community — the important thing is finding unity and love somewhere, somehow.
Relationships matter: between parents and children, between students and teachers, between friends. Friendships that have evolved and endured over 30 or more years can be some of the most powerful communities — these are the families that we have chosen. What was evident to me at both types of celebrations is the importance of relationships.
We may look like individuals, separate and apart from one another, but we are all together, connected as one in the web of life. When we come together to celebrate a young person beginning adult life as a high school graduate or to remember a loved one at the end of their life, our hearts fill with emotion. It is incredible to feel the energy of our community in its many forms at the various events I attended.
Gratitude from students for their teachers and the lessons and insight shared was evident at the graduations. Love and pride that parents and families poured out for the graduates filled the air. The caring as a result of lifelong friendships was palpable among the cadre of friends lifting a glass in memory of a departed friend. Milestone events remind us of the importance of living life for today and of sharing love among those closest to us.
Our community comes together when necessary, in times of joy, in times of need, in times of sorrow. This is what makes me proud to live here and be part of the family that is Eagle County. People gather and support one another. Kids celebrate with back flips. What we have here is remarkable, valuable and essential.
I challenge you to extend your definition of family. I challenge you to expand the group of people you care about and for. Spread love, joy and compassion one step further beyond your usual realm. Each one of us, together, can change the world around us for the better.
Kate Cocchiarella is the president of the Board of Education of Eagle County Schools. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.