Wednesday, March 12, 2008

"Outer" Graduation

“Joe , would you please stay just a minute.” It was my English
teacher, Mrs. Bowles.

I was just back from April Celebrations and she looked concerned as I approached her. “Joe , just before Easter break, you asked me for a progress report. I’m afraid I made a mistake on your grade. Your grade in this class is a D, not a B.”

Holy crow, I had gotten away with something!

She handed me a revised progress report. “I’m sorry,” she continued. “I had my husband calculate your grade before and he inadvertently skipped over two pages of entries in the grade book.”

As I walked out of the classroom grinning, I couldn’t help but think, “The Lord provides.” I crumbled up the progress report and threw it into the first trash can I saw.

April Celebrations had been great! Regardless of my grades, I had just two months left of school and those two months went quickly. Upon graduation, the whole family -- such as it was -- watched me do the cap and gown walk past and then gathered at a local Mexican restaurant for dinner. From that point on, I was on my own.

Almost immediately, I moved out of dad's house. It was all rather anticlimactic. I had focused on that moment for so long, that when it came the move seemed rather pedestrian. I moved in with Rick. He owned a house in Cupertino -- which by that time had become the new San Jose Center -- and ran his own landscape construction outfit. Rick not only offered me a place to stay, but he also gave me a job at a generous hourly rate. I'd remain there for the next year and a half.

That same month -- June 1983 -- Guru visited Victoria, British Columbia. The Center there had put on a successful triathlon for years, attracting as many as 700 competitors, so Guru made a point to visit. I drove up with a few brother disciples from the San Francisco Center.

At one of the functions, I snagged a front row seat and again attracted Guru's attention. As was his habit, Guru asked me my name, how old I was, and what I was doing. He also asked me about Charlie again. I hadn't seen Charlie since graduation and said so.

"I graduated, Guru," I said with excitement (not the excitement of accomplishment, but rather the excitement of liberation).

"You graduated," Guru said, seemingly amused with his eyes almost shut. "That is the outer graduation. Now you need the inner graduation."

The inner graduation. Yes, that's what I needed. That June, I completed one school (barely), and took my first big step into an entirely new school.

I was on the Path full time.

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