Over the three days of visiting with you, some uncommon stories emerged.
One classmate brought her disabled husband to the reunion, only to leave during the hors d'oeuvres hour. He had apparently exhausted his comfort and energy reserves and needed to be cared for at home. When I first received the ticket order for herself, her husband and his caregiver, I was amazed at the love this woman was showing for her struggling spouse. As I escorted her trio out to the car that night, I was saddened that she had sacrificed so much to include him in the festivities, yet had to make the tough decision to leave even before dinner and the program. Upon seeing her at the campus picnic the next day I praised her for her dedication to her husband. She immediately expressed her heartfelt thanks but reflected immediately that he was her “everything” and that he had given up so much to make her life happy and fulfilling.
Her (and her husband’s) story was uncommon, unselfish, sacrifcial love!
Another classmate and I were talking at the Friday night social mixer. He’s still the quiet, unassuming person I remember him as since high school. In sharing all that has happened to us over the years we naturally exchanged information about our professional lives. I asked him how he got into the medical field and he related that he had been an army medic during Vietnam. I curiously asked him how those traumatic years had affected him. He humbly stated that he had learned a lot about his personal capacities and that although he was as scared as the next guy, he felt called to aid those in desperate need of medical care in their ultimate hour of need. Then, as if to help me understand his level of risk, he shared that he had won the Silver Star and two Bronze Star medals in his tour. Now folks, I need you to understand that winning either of these awards is a reflection of exposure to extreme personal danger. Yet this fellow classmate indicated that he was “just doing his job.”
His story was uncommon, quiet, humble valor!
A classmate shared that she (like many of us) had experienced the pain of divorce but was “soldiering on” and flourishing in spite of the pain and betrayal. She had created a new life for herself and was discovering several untapped talents and abilities that she had longed to express. She was still dedicated to her children and grandchildren and had even made the commitment to live with them in another state in spite of her desire to return to California. She was ebullient and undaunted in her continuing search for happiness and meaning. She wasn’t giving up; she was just getting started!
Her story was about indomitable, admirable, exceptional resolve!
One classmate extemporaneously shared during the program that he had been an “outsider” immigrant to our school. He gave us an astonishingly new view of one of our more notoriously infamous classmates who had befriended him in his early PHS experience. Struggling with the identity of a strange foreign name, the notorious classmate had suggested a more conventional American name for him. And it “stuck.” This new identity and the acceptance that it made possible was a most welcome invitation into the PHS family. He never forgot this gesture of protection and acceptance. But he went further. He encouraged each of us, in this period of national contentiousness, to accept and encourage the “stranger.”
His was a message of uncommon compassion, inspiration and graciousness!
Lastly, and perhaps the most personally meaningful to me, was a story that was shared about my “Why Attend?” essay on the PHS Bulldog website. This classmate expressed deep appreciation for my willingness to divulge a difficult jr. high experience, and how it had changed my own self image and the personal image of another classmate. She said that after exchanging e-mails with me and being directed to that essay, she became convinced that her story was essential to the “family” story of our PHS years together. She made it a point to personally thank me for inspiring her to come to the reunion. I can’t tell you how edifying her comments were! After working on all the content and technology of the electronic media; after working on many planning sessions with the organizing committee; after the countless interactions of ticket sales and e-mail communications I was able to finally, truthfully say it was all “worth it!”
Hers was a story of uncommon encouragement and praise!
You, too, have your uncommon story and you, too, are aware of the uncommon attributes of our Bulldog classmates. It doesn’t make any difference whether you were at the reunion or not. You are part of a PHS family that made and is making a difference in our world. Please continue to develop and share your personal stories. The world needs your story, maybe now more than ever. Steady Dawgs! Stay the course! Keep meeting the challenge as you always have, and help others meet theirs along the way!
Love you ALL!
I apologize for not posting more photographs from the Reunion. I’ll leave that to others who are more adept and devoted to recording the event in pictures. But I’d like to offer a snapshot of our class and classmates that can only be captured with words.
As children of the Greatest Generation, we simply could not duplicate who they were, all that they sacrificed, and all they accomplished. But we are distinctly made in their image. As I shared life stories with many of you it became evident that we are an uncommon generation. A theme that came forward in what you shared with me was transformation; both personal and on a societal level.
One of our early presidents, JFK, inspired our nation and us with the words: “We choose to go to the moon; not because it is easy, but because it is hard.” And so it was with you! We are a generation that was not interested in conforming to the safe and predictable life patterns of the past, but willing to risk all to transform the world into the best vision we could create. We picked the more difficult paths.
We transformed our families by giving the best of ourselves to our kids and our mates. Some of you transformed others by giving them a new vision of themselves, by your undying dedication to relationships, and by your willingness to share their joy and their pain. You inspired; you edified; you walked alongside; you identified with others’ life journeys. Others were more important than yourself!
We transformed our workplaces by modeling outstanding and unique personal performance and by offering new ways of seeing the world of work. We not only raised the existing “bar” of professionalism, we created new areas of endeavor in the workplace. We stretched the limits of what could be done in the world of work. We organized the workplace; we calmed it; we gave it a new vision; we helped others find their place and a sense of contribution.
We transformed our society by not settling for the status quo, but sacrificially lifting up those who could not speak for themselves. We called out prejudice for what it is, but weren’t divisive in doing so. We were inclusive. We were welcoming. We were empathetic and understanding, realizing that we, too, had made mistakes. We found and expressed our “better selves.” Another, earlier phrase of JFK’s had found resonance among us: “Ask not what your country can do for you; Ask what you can do for your country!”
And so, it is with a grateful heart that I thank you for being the best classmates a guy could have! It’s been a fantastic journey, one that is far from over. We continue to influence our personal and larger world because of our love for it.
Well done, Bulldogs! I’m so thankful for you and what we have become!