Eight years ago I decided to do something I hadn’t done in 39 years when I attended my 40th high school reunion.
High school was not a particularly good time for me as I was undergoing many physical and psychological changes. It was the early 70’s and we were emerging out of the peace and love generation into the disco and me generation.
Even though I was somewhat popular, I always felt like an outsider who never really fit in. Out of almost 700 students in my class, my then introverted nature was only willing and able to make a few really good and close friends.
So, when reunions came up I always passed on the opportunity to attend, saying to myself: “Do you really want to relive all that again? And, do you really want to have to try and explain why you became a parish minister and that is not the same thing as a priest?”
As my 40th high school reunion loomed on the horizon, I was personally invited to attend by the woman who was chairing the Reunion Committee. We had worked together on our school newspaper, which she used to her advantage to get me to finally promise to attend what turned out to be my first and maybe only high school reunion.
The event occurred on a hot and and humid summer day in Prince George County, Maryland…something participants felt every bit of because the air conditioning in the venue was not working. I walked in with a certain amount of dread and self consciousness.
Did I really want to see any of these people again and did they really want to see me? Would we even be able to recognize each other after all the years that had passed?
I was assigned to a table with a few of my closest high school friends, which made it easier. But soon, my now extroverted self began to mingle with people sitting at other tables.
Surprisingly, I was was actually glad to see most of them! When we talked, it wasn’t so much about what we did for a living or how much money we made, but rather simply rejoicing in still being alive and sharing memories of a time we all lived through together.
Some people still looked pretty much the same, just older versions of their former selves. Other people, more ravaged by time and their experiences, were unrecognizable.
Some people had the same obnoxious self-centered personalities they had in high school and were still content to only hang out with their same cliques and not mingle.
But most other people had changed and become more mature, interesting versions of their former selves. The passage of time and all they had experienced, both good and bad, had made them better people and better listeners with bigger hearts! They were more accepting, understanding and truly a joy to be around which left me feeling like I wished I had known them all those years ago.
Experiences in life can change us, sometimes permanently and sometimes only temporarily…and sometimes these changes can make us better and wiser people. This Coronavirus Pandemic we all are experiencing is changing us all.
We are having to alter to way we interact with each other and the way we live. We have had to live in fear and uncertainty with the realization that we really are not in control of our lives.
All this is making us more cognizant of our own mortality and the importance of maintaining our health. It is making us realize how interconnected we really are and “that we are all in this together and are dependent on each other.”
It is making us realize the importance of our humanity by simply being kind and compassionate to one another. It is making us aware of the importance of community.
And, maybe for the first time, it is making us aware of our need for God and each other. All these things we are realizing, hopefully, are making us better people.
But, I can’t help but wonder will the changes we are undergoing during our pandemic be permanent and stay with us after the pandemic is over?
Or will they just be temporary and fade with the passing of the virus?
It would be a shame, if after all of the pain, suffering, sacrifices and death from the Coronavirus that we didn’t allow good to come out of it.
So, ask yourself this: “If I survive the pandemic, will I be changed for the better…changed into a more human, caring and loving child of God?”