One July weekend, I attended a mini-reunion with folks from my college days. It was not the traditional sort that occurs every five years. You know, the big blowouts with the entire class, formal events, and all pomp that entails.
It started with a simple email remark that it would nice to see each other with spouses since we were not that far away. So it began. Emails were sent to make contact, to find those missing over the years, and to see if there was interest. Two classmates made the generous offer to coordinate and host the event.
Then, there was search for a set of dates that might work with our diverse schedules. Slowly it started to come together. Rather than just those classmates in close proximity, others from more distant locations seemed to be interested.
As the date approached, I found myself excited about reconnecting with the group. Serendipitously, my wife and I had seen the movie “Grownups” the weekend before. The plot was built around four friends with their families meeting at an out-of-the-way house for a summer weekend. While we may not have had Adam Sandler and Chris Rock in our group, there was potential for some similar misadventures.
I missed the gathering at dinner the first night and drove in the next morning. The first reunion was with a couple whose wedding I had been a part of three decades earlier. As I parked the car and walked toward the house, I was greeted by their two dogs who welcomed me with licks and nips. Isn’t that the way we approach some reunions? We are happy to see old friends who we greet with hugs and kisses. But we expect some comments and verbal probing that make us anxious.
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When the group came together that’s how it was. Quickly though, I felt at ease. The folks with whom I spent two intense years were the same friends from long ago. Of course, hairlines had receded, some heads were gray, and physiques had “matured,” but the eyes showed that the personalities were unchanged. We shared stories about life — family, pets, challenges, and blessings. There was genuine love felt among couples (long-time and new). There were old stories that resurfaced that jogged memories. We talked about friends and family that had passed away as a solemn reminder that all journeys come to an end.
What I noticed was the absence of talk about one’s own accomplishment and the need to compare/measure against others. The conversations portrayed a caring interest in others. Our paths had crossed again after a collective series of twists and turns. What mattered was that providence had brought us together once again.
We spent an entire day together and when we parted following the evening dinner, there was a sense of comfort that was hard to describe. Like in the movie, we “grownups” had stayed true to the things that drew us close those many years ago — shared values, an attitude of service above self, a general optimism about others, and an understanding that true friendship endures.
This is a feeling that I look forward to the next time we gather.
Col. Charles D. Allen (U.S. Army, Ret.) is a Professor of Leadership and Cultural Studies at the U.S. Army War College.