Hey high school graduate, listen up for a sec.
Hundreds of you will don shiny robes this weekend, reminisce with classmates you've known since elementary school, and contemplate a future that may seem daunting.
It's a time that's both frightening and thrilling for sure.
Now seems as good a time as any to tell you something you may not fully realize until later in life.
Your parents, your grandparents, aunts and uncles - they aren't the only ones with a vested interest in your future.
Whether you realize it or not, you have a whole community behind you, cheering you on - and yes expecting great things from you.
Some of them will be sitting in the seats across from you as you graduate. Some of them won't. Some of them you likely have fond memories of. Others you can barely remember at all.
They remember you though.
There's that dad who rushed to Drakes Creek Park every Monday and Thursday night from work in Nashville to coach your five-year-old soccer team. You remember, the guy who didn't yell at you when you accidentally scored a goal for the other team? It may not have registered then, but you may have learned a thing or two about grace that day.
And the Sunday school teacher who didn't raise an eye brow when you matter-of-factly mentioned your dad was moving out of the house. You know, the nice lady who always seemed to slip you an extra cookie during snack time? You may not have known it then but you likely benefitted from her prayers that day.
And of course there's that teacher who left her own family an hour early each day or stayed after school to make sure you didn't bomb that test that turned your stomach inside out. It may not have registered then, but she was one of several over the years who taught you a thing or two about patience and perseverance.
It's easy to take a community for granted, particularly if it's all you've known.
You've always had PTO moms who made those fancy snacks at Halloween that look like spiders; members of the police and fire departments have always shown up for career day and park events; your parents always made you go to church on Sunday; and you're used to running into grown-ups who remember you as a child at the grocery store or movie theater.
You always laughed at how they seem so surprised to learn that 12 years later you still weren't in Kindergarten.
We don't expect you to understand now what a gift it's been for all of us to watch you grow up.
You'll understand one day, just like we have.
It's important you know that all of this "community love" doesn't come without a catch, however.
You see, we do expect a little return on our investment.
We expect you to make a mistake or two along the way, but we ask that you are mindful that your actions affect so many people who genuinely care about you and want to see you succeed.
We congratulate you on your milestone achievement.
We also ask that you stay true to yourself, follow your dreams and, of course, continue to make us all proud.