ValueSpeak
A Weekly Column
By Joseph Walker

CARING AND THE CLASS OF ‘73

I didn’t attend the 20th reunion of the Class of 1973.

I was unemployed at the time and quite frankly, I couldn’t afford it.

But money wasn’t the reason I didn’t go.

Not really.

Pride was the reason.

High school went pretty well for me.  I just took to it like a duck takes to certain insurance companies.  Something about the daily monotony of high school helped me to flourish.  They were years filled with fun and accomplishment for me, which is why you would think I would be first in any line wending its way toward revisiting those wonderful, carefree days.

But what do you say to people you haven’t seen in years when Mr. “Most Likely to Succeed” has turned into “Mr. Doesn’t Have a Job and Lives in a Rented Duplex With His Wife and Five Kids and Only One Bathroom”?

I decided that you don’t say anything; you stay home and hope nobody asks: “Whatever happened to good old Joe?”

Or, if they ask, nobody knows the answer.

Unfortunately one of my best high school friends, Dave, decided to find out for himself.  The morning after the reunion he was on my doorstep, demanding an explanation.

“A lot of people were counting on seeing you there,” he said.  “I was counting on seeing you there.”

“Look, you don’t understand,” I said.  And I honestly didn’t think he did. 

Dave had been a lovable goofball in high school, but he has gone on to extraordinary accomplishment in the real world.  How could anyone who makes seven figures possibly understand what I was feeling?

He listened sympathetically to my stumbling, stammering explanation.  Then he shrugged his shoulders.

“I don’t know,” he said.  “Maybe you’re right.  Maybe I don’t understand. 

But I didn’t think the reunion was about money.  I thought it was about people, and reconnecting with those who meant a lot to you at one time in your life.  That’s why I was there.  And I sort of figured that’s why you would be there too.”

“It isn’t that simple,” I said.  “I wish it was -- but it just isn’t.”

We sat silently on the front steps of the duplex for a moment, struggling to reconcile that which seemed to be irreconcilable.  Finally he got up to leave.

“Look, I’m sorry you have some struggles in your life,” he said.  “But you know what?  I talked to a lot of people last night who have struggles. 

Pretty much everybody has them, Joe -- including me.  That’s part of the reason we need to get together once in a while.  We knew each other long before any of this stuff happened.  We cared about each other then, and it seems to me that we should care about each other now -- no matter what.”

I’ve thought about that a lot during the 10 years that have passed since then.  And now it is 2003, and the Class of ‘73 is planning to meet for our 30-year reunion.  I don’t know if Dave is going to be there or not, but I’m going to be.  And not just because I now have a job and a cute little house.

  I’m going because when it comes right down to it, it really is about people.  And struggles.  And caring.

No matter what.

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--- © Joseph Walker
http://www.sfpnn.com/joseph_walker1.htm
valuespeak@msn.com

 

Look for Joe's book, "How Can You Mend a Broken Spleen? Home Remedies for an Ailing World." It is available on-line through www.Amazon.com.