When I was a senior in high school, our class was the first to graduate from “the new building.” They had taken our old junior high, and, while we were spending a few years in the original old school building, transformed our little school into a big new facility, complete with lecture halls and state of the art auditorium, gymnasium and pool complex. I was reintroduced to the “new Ottawa” recently when we had our 50th class reunion, and as such, got a tour of the facility, since many of us couldn’t quite remember it all that well. It was then that I realized that the “new” building was 50 years old – just like that “old” building had been when I went there! Time is such a fascinating concept…

Besides the fact that I cannot believe I am old enough to be attending a 50-year high school reunion (didn’t my mom just do that a few years ago?), I had a lot of questions about what it would be like to see people I hadn’t seen in 50 years. I left that area of the country in 1980 and times have changed. Would I be able to relate to those who never left? Would we be able to have civil conversations without having the evening devolve into partisan divides? I set my intention to just go and be curious and have a good time, hoping for the best.

Let’s just say the evening exceeded all my expectations.

I talked to people that, not only had I not seen in 50 years, but barely spoke with in high school. Guys that were either the stoners or jocks, that I was too nervous to speak with back then, were just another classmate, marveling at who was there, where we had come from, and what we had done with our lives. There were smiles everywhere and the room was filled with laughter and absolute delight. I started the dancing and once the floor was filled, I got to learn a few new line dances, and was able to do the requisite ‘70s Soul Train dance with girls I would never have had the chance to party with back then. It just didn’t matter. We were just having fun!

The secret? We connected as children again. We knew each other as kids – some of us were classmates from kindergarten – and we recognized that child in the other person. Connecting on that level brought no current state of affairs to the table, but just joy at the reconnection. It gave me great hope that there is a way out of the morass, if we can only move our focus away from the worry about who is right, and look instead for the commonality: our humanity. 

John Ruskin said, “The whole difference between a man of genius and other men, it has been said a thousand times, and most truly, is that the first remains in great part a child, seeing with the large eyes of children, in perpetual wonder, not conscious of much knowledge–conscious, rather of infinite ignorance, and yet infinite power; a fountain of eternal admiration, delight, and creative force within him meeting the ocean of visible and governable things around him.”

The other difference I noted in this reunion, as opposed to say our 10th or even 20th, was that we are in a different stage of life. We are not jockeying for position, trying to woo or impress. Many are retired and have the gift of time. The life stressors of work and young children, of relationships in their many phases, and of being in that part of life where you are still trying to figure it out, are, thankfully, a thing of the past. With time and experience does come acceptance and wisdom, and appreciation for what has been good in our lives. 

I went to the party expecting to see a few I knew, share old stories, and, ultimately, hoped to have left glad that I came. What I received was a gift far greater in value: a connection of souls at a core level, and the wisdom that comes from seeing and acknowledging a person’s essence. 

And I can do a mean Cupid’s Shuffle now too…