This VHS graduate shares special gifts Andrea Lias, age 3. by David Lias Vermillion High School will be holding its commencement exercises Sunday afternoon.
It's a time when selected members of the senior class address the audience and talk about special memories and lessons learned during their years of growing and learning together in our school system.
Sometimes I wish there was time set aside for parents to speak, too � that is, if they're able to without getting choked up.
If I was given that opportunity, I would speak about the little girl you see pictured to the left.
That's our daughter, Andrea, on her third birthday.
We were living in Mitchell when this picture was taken, in the only home she had ever known.
You can't tell from the picture, but this scene, photographed on a hot Sunday in July, shows her pushing one of her new birthday presents � a toy lawn mower that emits bubbles � barefoot through our yard.
That summer was particularly dry.
It was so dry that trying to keep the grass green would have eaten a big hole in our household budget. Cindy and I felt the girls were more important than our lawn.
So, the grass that Andrea is walking through in this picture is dry and brittle.
It would, to most people, be too painful to walk across.
Stuff like that, though, has never stopped Andrea. Once she makes up her mind to do something � it's done.
Andrea will be among the Class of 2005 receiving diplomas Sunday.
Naturally, we're all proud of her. And I hope she feels proud about what she's accomplished, too.
You see, over the years, she's done much more than meet the requirements set forth by the state of South Dakota and our local school district.
During all of these years that she's been learning new things, Andrea has shared a special gift with me.
She has taught me never to give up.
It's a lesson she probably doesn't realize she's been constantly teaching me.
Whether as a 3-year- old walking through brittle grass, or an 18-year-old juggling school activities, a demanding course schedule, and her job as a babysitter for a Vermillion family, she has shown this incredible resiliency.
I would be remiss if I didn't mention another gift I've always received from her.
Every night when I would come home from work when we lived in Mitchell, I parked in our driveway, and walked through an outside entrance on our garage. It had a storm door on it, with a stiff spring. All you had to do was let go of the door, and the spring would slam it shut.
That slamming sound was Andrea's signal to run as fast as she could. By the time I had walked through the garage and opened a second door to get inside the house, she would be there, to leap into my arms.
There's nothing on earth that compares with the gift of unconditional love.
She didn't learn about this special gift from a textbook. No one has ever had to instruct Andrea on how to love her dad and mom, her sister, and everyone else around her.
She was born knowing how to share this gift.
To share this part of your character � with no strings attached � is the greatest thing anyone has ever taught me.
Plain Talk editor David Lias will be among the large gathering of well-wishers at Sunday's commencement. You may contact him at david.lias@plaintalk. net.