A few months ago, a former classmate and I ran into each other downtown and began discussing our upcoming high school reunion, a conversation that somehow turned into how little we knew about each other’s families, even though we had attended school together for twelve years. She remembered that my father had died when I was young (eight-months old), but not how he died. My knowledge of her family was not much better, for even though we had been best friends in grade school, all I remembered about her dad was that he worked for the railroad and had no sense of smell. “We were so into ourselves,” she said. And I agreed.
Two weeks ago, my high school graduating class celebrated its 50th reunion–which makes no sense, considering I am only 30 years old. (I’m funny.) Anyway, because this was such a special event, a committee of us locals spent several weeks preparing for the celebration, and with our Class of ’68 graduating survivors nearing 165, we counted on large numbers.
“Save the Date” postcards were mailed months in advance, but by the registration deadline, only 23 graduates had responded that they would come. Ten of those were on the committee. This was not what we expected. A second email was sent, followed by personal phone calls. A total of 55 registered. A few classmates had health problems that prevented them from attending, but our committee was saddened by those who said that high school was not a good experience, and they had no intention of reliving those years.
Again, not what we expected.
At one of our organizational meetings, we questioned the “Why’s” of such responses. Our committee members had run in different crowds and been involved in various activities during our school years. Two had boyfriends, their primary focus. Still, high school held fond memories for all of us. At one point in our conversation, we questioned if we could have done more to help others have the same kind of experience. I mean, none of us had been unfriendly, but had we been selfishly focused on ourselves?
The answer was obvious.
So, here it is, decades later, and several former classmates still carry the wounds of those years. And even though we cannot turn back the clock and soothe their hurts, we can—and should—learn from this so that today, whatever our circumstance, we become aware of those we encounter who need a kind word or an invitation for a cup of coffee or an opportunity to be valued. Instead of surrounding ourselves with those with whom we are comfortable, maybe it’s time to meet that neighbor who keeps to himself or the cashier at the local convenience store or even an old classmate with whom we have lost contact.
Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 9:19 are a fresh reminder of what our daily objective should be. “Though I am free, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.” In Paul’s early years, he was all about himself. Unlike our committee, his primary focus was to intentionally hurt the Christian community, but once he met Jesus, he cared only about others.
One day, a Heavenly reunion will be held. We Christians carry the invitations for neighbors and pew-mates and random encounters to “Save the Date” as well as the responsibility to follow up with reminders of its importance. None of us want to be the reason someone rejects this eternal opportunity.
What to do?
The answer is obvious.