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Remember where you have been

It is hard to get rid of dust.

It has a way of creeping into folds, crevices and minute spaces. No matter how thorough you are in cleaning it off, there is always some hidden away. It is a silent hitchhiker that stays with you from every place you have been and something you take with you wherever you go.

Everyone comes from somewhere. This Friday night, young people in Medford, Rib Lake and Gilman will walk across stages and receive fancy pieces of paper signed by school officials attesting that the students have met the requirements of the state of Wisconsin and their school districts and are now high school graduates.

Hooray. Congratulations on a job well done.

The graduates cross the stages with the hopes and dreams of their entire communities who have invested time, effort and resources in getting them to this point.

For many of those young people, the graduation ceremony and the trappings, parties and hoopla around it are simply a distraction. They are counting down the days until they can finally shake the dust of their small towns off their feet and head out into the wider world seeking challenges, adventure and an opportunity to reinvent themselves.

Many leave with the promise to never look back. Months from now, you will find them on college campuses, military barracks, workplace break rooms and online social media platforms complaining to other like-minded individuals about their home towns. They will be attempting to outdo each other with stories about how things never change or how they couldn’t wait to leave. They will talk about how the lights are brighter where they are now and the people far more interesting with so much more to see and do.

Dust has a way of accumulating where we least expect it to be.

Much as young robins leaving their nests, these young graduates are right to want to stretch their wings and see what lies over the horizon. They need to fly and soar and search for their own answers to life’s questions.

Where we go as individuals matters a great deal on where we have been. The myth of the self-made man is just that, a fictional story. Each of us is the product of our home towns. It is the place where values were shaped, lessons were learned and where, if you fell, there were hands outstretched to help dust you off and get you back on your feet.

Like the dust that finds its way into the lacings of your shoes or the pockets of your blue jeans, the lessons learned from living in a small town never truly disappear, but instead are carried with each of us.

Given time, all dust settles somewhere. Today’s young graduates are tomorrow’s parents, teachers and leaders. Some may find their way back to their hometown, seeking out that which they longed to escape years before. Others will settle where they are, finding their place in the world. Wherever they may end up, they will carry with them the dust of their home towns and the generations that came before them.

In Genesis 1:2 the Bible tells us that God formed man “of the dust of the ground.” Astronomer and author Carl Sagan reminds us that, in a literal sense, “We are all made of stardust.” Microbiologists talk about spores and entire ecosystems on specks of dust.

It is hard to get rid of dust. That is OK. In the dust of our hometowns is the very essence of who we are. Whatever our young graduates do, and wherever they may end up, they carry along with them the pride and support (and yes, dust) of their hometowns.

Members of The Star News editorial board include Co-Publisher Carol O’Leary, Publisher Kris O’Leary and Editor Brian Wilson.