Class Reunions – you either love them or you hate them. The early ones (10th and 20th) usually suck. People want to come back and ask what kind of car you’re driving, hand out business cards so you can see what their title is at work and pretty much try to out do one another. At least, that’s what I’ve heard – I never attended my 10th or 20th high school reunion. But, by the 30th, everyone seems to have picked up at least a little ‘road rash’ going through life (death of a loved one, a divorce, laid off or “fired” from a job, etc.) and people seem a little more mellow. At the 40th, it seems there is much the same sentiment although the “Glad to see you” greetings seem even more genuine. Some people actually exchange hugs and yes, there are even some tears that flow. After all, we are now almost 60 years old. And then there’s the ‘big one’ – the 50th Class Reunion. Hello Tyrannosauras Rex – we are now officially dinosaurs! And if you don’t believe that, just ask your grandkids!
My lovely wife, Cindy, and I just attended our 50th High School Class Reunion (Kenmore West Senior HS, Kenmore, NY, suburb of Buffalo). With over 835 students in our class back in 1969, we were hoping for good attendance and seeing many old friends. We weren’t disappointed. Thanks to outstanding leadership and a very driven, organized planning committee, the entire weekend was excellent. The events, the food, the music and the venues were perfect! It was everything you could have wanted in a class reunion including a beautifully done Memorial Service for the over 100 classmates who had already passed.
During the 8 hour drive home, I contemplated the past 72 hours and my thoughts drifted to an article I had read a little over a year ago. The article was about an undergraduate class that was being offered at Yale University on “Finding Happiness.” Over 1,200 students registered for the course making it the most popular course ever offered at the prestigious university. Imagine some of the brightest young people in America feeling the need to take a course on how to find of all things…happiness. Why are these young people, and maybe many of us, struggling so with life? Is happiness really that elusive in today’s world?
Prior to going back to our 50th Class Reunion, I learned that one of our high school football teammates was now suffering some very real health crises and was living in a skilled nursing facility. Obviously, he would not be able to attend any of the Class Reunion events. So, I got in touch with some of my former teammates who I hoped would be attending the reunion and suggested we visit our friend and teammate in the nursing home. The response was almost immediate. “Count me in!” “I’m there!” “Absolutely!” And so, on Friday, August 30th, 12 of us who had come back for our 50th Class Reunion visited our ailing teammate – and it was spectacular! Smiles, laughs, stories told, and hugs exchanged – I would have to say that everyone in the room was HAPPY in that moment. And when we left, we were all filled with gratitude. Grateful we had lived to see a day when we could all be together once again as friends and teammates. We all felt blessed to be together.
Over the course of my life, I have learned many valuable lessons but none more important than Learning to Give is Learning to Live. Real fulfillment in life isn’t about ‘getting things’ as much as it is about giving of ourselves to help others. Servant Leadership is what real living is all about!
As I look back to my high school years, I find that I am now a much different person than I was in 1969 and I am very thankful for that. When we were in high school we all seemed to have our differences and there were the typical high school cliques. We found stupid excuses to judge and not like certain people. That’s just the way it was. But now, I see our world so differently. In part, I am now much more a ‘man of faith’ and I am really big on this LOVE thing (call it whatever you want). At 68, I want to try to love everyone and I pray every day for just that – a world where people help one another, where people love one another, no matter our differences. No matter our differences.
Mother Teresa once said, “We cannot all do great things, but we can do small things with great love.” To my classmates from our Class of 1969 and to anyone who reads this – I hope you remember your past fondly and that in the time that each of us has left on this planet, we focus on doing all we can with great love. When we do, amazingly, I think we will all find our happiness.