Lessons From A High School Reunion

Santa Clarita Signal • Opinion Column • Ethically Speaking • August 10, 2014

Lessons From A High School Reunion

David W. Hegg

I just returned from my 40th high school reunion. It was great, but I must admit I didn’t realize how many old people would be there!

Time flashes forward in huge chunks. Just moments ago we were graduating, and heading out to the lake for some laughter and celebration with the gang. Then – flash - off to college or industry, and later to the hospital to have our kids. Finally, we walked through the door of the reunion hall and nobody recognized us. We had too much waist, too little hair, and too many stories to get through in the couple days we had together. It was a most surreal experience, and yet it also crystallized some things in my mind. Here are 5 things I learned:

1. Good friendships may go dormant but they don’t die: It was remarkable how easy it was to slip right back into conversation, laughter, and camaraderie with my closest friends. My times with Sue, Duane, and Gil were as though we’d never been apart. We’d travelled different roads, but apparently the distance of space and time had not eroded the affection that made our friendship so easy.

2. It is never too early in life to start making good choices: It was apparent that those who had demonstrated the most discipline, focus, hard work, and congeniality in high school had, for the most part, been able to stay on track, find success, and overcome life’s obstacles. The building blocks of purposeful, satisfying lives were formed early in life. Good choices that didn’t seem all that crucial at the time turned out to be vital to having more good choices later in life.

 3. It can be too late to start making good choices: The saddest part of the reunion was the realization so many of our class had wasted their lives. Stories of our friends choosing instant gratification through drugs, alcohol, crime, anger, promiscuity, or just plain laziness were much too widespread. And the biggest hurt was the reality that their situations, and the wider consequences borne by their families, were irreversible. As we all know, when you travel down the road of bad choices it isn’t long before you reach the place where there are no good choices available anymore.

 4. It is never to late to recognize those who invested in you: As we reminisced, stories of teachers, parents, coaches, and friends who invested in our lives became commonplace. Even before we were conscious of the good things being formed in us, there were those trying desperately to instill in us the right decision-making mechanism. They were attempting to mentor us toward honesty, to appreciate the connection between hard work and accomplishment, and ultimately to recognize that we’d been given a life with great promise and it would be a shame to waste it on ourselves.

A highlight for me was seeing my high school basketball coach, Dick Kinzer. The few minutes I had with this wonderful, wise, now quite aged man immediately took me back to those three years of varsity ball. I can’t adequately describe the life lessons he taught me. We won far more than we lost, but we did lose. Coach Kinzer taught us how to hate losing while maintaining the correct perspective on competition and life. I will forever be indebted to him.

5. How you identify yourself matters most: I suppose every reunion is ultimately about who we’ve become. Are we rich? Successful? What’s the most important identifying thing about us? Who are we really? At my reunion I was most gratified to meet so many who, over the course of time, had come to realize the only identity that satisfies is as a follower of Jesus.

One guy stands out. Tracey was one of the meanest middle linebackers in the league, and he had only disdain for God and those who followed Jesus. At the reunion, he hugged me and explained how God had chased him down, caught him, brought him a wonderful wife, and was now the One in charge. And there were many in our class with the same story.

A 40-year reunion can be a wonderful thing. It also will force you to reflect on what really matters in this life. As my wife and I travelled home, we were so thankful for our lives, our 3 wonderful married children, and the fact that we have no regrets. God is good, all the time.