The reason this man clapped louder than anyone else in the room is surprising.

*Featured image contains photo by Pavel Danilyuk

Graduations are a big deal. They’re the moment a student gets to celebrate all of their hard work and dedication, usually in front of friends and loved ones. Of course, for educators, they happen every year.

Perhaps that’s why one event staffer’s exuberant reaction to the Texas Christian University graduating class of 2019 caught one attendee’s attention and eventually went viral.

The Loudest in the Room

man clapping loudly

During the 2019 TCU graduation ceremony, one attendee noticed that an event staffer named Andrew Thomas loudly applauded every student as they crossed the platform and received their certificate. After watching the 68-year-old for a while, the person joked that he was the loudest in the entire room.

Thomas’ response, however, was completely surprising.

“Hey man, lot of these kids ain’t got nobody to support them. I never had anyone to support me, so I’m gonna make sure all these kids got somebody to support them and what they’ve done, even if it’s just me,” he told the attendee, who posted a photo on Reddit.

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It didn’t take long for news outlets to catch on to the story.

According to a local ABC News affiliate, Thomas is a retired Forth Worth city worker who now helps with big events at TCU. Such as graduation. The event reminds him of his daughter’s 2015 graduation when he learned a valuable lesson.

“She started telling me before the graduation we attended about kids,” he recalled to the outlet. “About being homeless, not having family, and couch surfing, just doing whatever they had to do. And beyond all odds, they made it, they graduated. They didn’t have family there to congratulate them. They were there by themselves.”

Everyone Has a Story

According to Thomas, many people would expect graduating students of a place like TCU to have a robust support system. But that isn’t always the case, which is why he wants to try and be that representation — even if it’s just for a day.

“We don’t know all these kids’ stories,” Thomas explained to the ABC News outlet. “All these young people. We don’t know what motivated them, we don’t know who they’ve got to support them, we just don’t know.”

Sure, clapping for all of those kids — and doing it loudly — is a bit of work, but as Thomas said, it’s worth it.

“I’m grateful for them, he added. “And I know they deserve everything they’ve got. They worked hard for it.”

Throwing Away Assumptions

One of the reasons Thomas’ story strikes a chord with so many people is that it’s easy to assume someone with the privilege of graduating from college or university has a steady family life or a strong support system. But that’s not necessarily true.

So many people overcome obstacles in life, and just because they don’t broadcast them doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Thomas reminds us we should never judge a book by its cover and always assume that we don’t know anything about a person.

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It’s easy to make snap judgments and assume things about people. But at the end of the day, no one knows what someone else may have gone through or is currently going through. And that makes it essential to always try to be non-judgmental and supportive — even to strangers.

So the next time it seems like someone has more than us, has a privilege we don’t, has something handed to them, or doesn’t work as hard as we do, this story is a reminder to step back and check those intrusive thoughts and feelings.

Because everyone has a story and deserves the same kind of compassion and kindness in life.


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