I had the chance to meet a member of my high school class a short while ago. We had both found our way to the hot tub in our health club and, while it took a second, we recognized each other and began to talk.
We talked about knees, mine, hers, the operations we had or anticipated. When only a few years have passed since high school people talk about jobs, success, cars, and such. As the years pass we talk about children, grandchildren, and knees that don’t quite work the same way as they did when we were younger. I suppose that in the years to come those of us who remain will talk about those who have passed on and one day there will only be one of us left to remember anything at all. Such is the nature of things.
In some ways my high school days seem like they really were decades ago, and sometimes it seems like an instant. I was new to town and so I didn’t have the advantage of history with people that’s so important when you try to fit in in a small town, and although the town I went to high school in was a metropolitan suburb, it was also a small town. My father’s job, a good job for him and us, uprooted me from the place where I had grown and I don’t think I ever was successfully transplanted to the new garden.
So high school was often odd and lonely for me and I certainly don’t look back at it as some kind of “Glory days.” It’s hard to be forced by law and geography to be at a place where you don’t feel you belong and combining that with all the craziness that is adolescence was sometimes overwhelming. There are days when even now I wish I could have somehow stayed in my hometown with the people who knew me from when I was a kid, the people I had to leave suddenly in the middle of 8th grade. That place wasn’t perfect either, no place is, but sometimes when I walked the high school halls alone I wished I was somewhere, anywhere, else and the place I left behind seemed as good a place as any.
Thirty plus years out from high school, of course, everything is different. Time and maturity do their work and wisdom helps you gain perspective. High school was hard for me but it also helped me grow strong, become a caring person, and provided the storm that made the calm that followed even more sweet. I left the place like a rocket launching into the air and I’ve kept climbing. A substantial part of who I am now is rooted in that time, the largest part, I suppose, just the sheer determination to prove to the world that the person they saw in those days was never going to be my destiny and that there was, and is, so much more. Knowing what it was like to hurt, and hurt badly, my whole life from those days has been about healing, my own, and, even more than that, doing whatever I could to see healing happen wherever I happened to be. It helped make me a Priest, and a caregiver, and a person fiercely passionate about the amazing power of Jesus to transform lives, even reality itself. Though I was often a stranger at my own high school I’d like to think that if they saw me now they would know that things have worked out well, thank God.
Still, I don’t keep track of many of the people from my high school class. I know some of them have died and from time to time I meet one here and there. It’s in my nature to have only a few close friends. It’s not that I don’t like people, my work is such that I’m surrounded by them every day and I probably know, or have known, hundreds of people all around the world. My inner circle, by my own preference, is just small. Still, I do pray for my high school class often, sometimes at church and more often when God wakes me up in the middle of the night to pray. I wish them well, I really do, and I wish them all the blessings and good things this life has to offer. I hope they are at peace and sometimes when I ponder things I think about what they may be doing or where they are and I hope the life they have is wonderful in the best sense of that word.
So it was good, this chance meeting in the health club hot tub with an old classmate. I remember her as a good person, still is, and we talked about knees, hers, mine, and ours, the kind of talk you get from people in their middle age. The thoughts of that chance encounter are the seed of what I’ve written and I pray, too, that her life has been, and will be blessed.
God is good, all the time, and because of His goodness to me I wish every one in the Mahtomedi High School Class of 1979 all of His blessings as well, peace in this world and heaven in the world to come. This coming Sunday I’ll do what I’ve often done before and light a candle at church with your names on it.