The chill of the late night flushed away the heat in my face, and I dug deep in my left denim pocket for my keys, looking over my shoulder one last time at the entrance of Chops Restaurant and Lounge. Shawn had her arms wrapped around another alum who was leaving for the night, and I smiled.
As I walked toward my car to head home, I carried more with me than just a set of keys and a camera loaded with images of the night. I carried also the warmth of Shawn’s embrace and the hugs and pats of countless others, heartfelt touches that reminded me why my friendship with my high school friends has always been so much more than skin deep.
I had just spent the last 4 hours with most of them under one roof — a place owned by another alum named Chris.
Chris was voted most spirited in our senior superlatives that year, and for good reason. He could have won best laugh, biggest smile, best heart, and most unsung hero, too. The guy’s lived a life of fun, kindness, and charity.
He’s not alone. The bar was filled with (nearly) half-century humanitarians for all kinds of causes. Many stayed local and have devoted their lives to their communities; others who moved out of state are charitable in their own right.
For this night, though, the paths that we have taken since we said our farewells in 1983 didn’t matter. Under this one roof, we were united once more, the class of 1983.
The night was filled with laughter, great music by The Rat Pack, and delicious food and drinks. It was everything a reunion is supposed to be. But on this night, 30 years after we were laughing for teenage reasons and listening to the great music of a very different generation, we carried with us heavier things that pulled us together in even stronger ways.
Many of us held one of our alums, Sandy, close to our heart all night. Just 19 hours before we all started gathering at Chops, she was saying goodbye to her 28-year-old son who had just died of cancer. We didn’t gossip about the tragedy; instead, together we prayed, we celebrated her strength, we mourned her loss. And before the night was over, Sandy’s friends and fellow classmates collected over $400 to show the support and the love that runs deep in the class of ’83.
Then there’s another story of one of our alums who has been hit hard in recent years. He turned to some friends for help, and he received more than he could have ever expected.
Friends in trouble, family members battling depression and even suicide, struggles that we see and hear about every day….We shared stories about these and many more challenges last night, and every single time, there was somebody in our class who could relate, support, assist, or just offer a hug and an encouraging word.
I’m sure every class has the potential to experience the depth of friendship like we have, though I don’t know how much longer that will be the case. Thirty years ago, we didn’t have any Internet or mobile phones to keep close, and Facebook wasn’t even a thought in Mark Zuckerberg’s head (how could it be? The creator of Facebook was born the following May in ’84). When we said goodbye on that hot June day after graduation, that meant something more than it ever can again. Today, technology assures us that our goodbyes are to the brick and mortar buildings where we spent our final four years of secondary school, and little else.
Don’t get me wrong; Facebook and social networking made last night happen. It’s that mix of social media coupled with the even greater power of social meetings (let me be the first to call that hybrid offspring “Social Meetia”) that creates a powerful force of friendship and charity.
And maybe that’s what I realized when I was sitting in my car, listening to Steve Perry of Journey bring it all together with “Faithfully.” There is faith in the energy in this class of engineers, teachers, caregivers, artists, and entrepreneurs that, with the unlimited potential of social networking and in-person collaboration, we may just be entering the best years of our lives.
I, for one, am not waiting for the next reunion to come around to keep in touch with these wonderful individuals. To the Loch Raven Class of 1983, you are my friends as much as you are my partners in charity. Our finest hours have yet to be realized, and I am thrilled with the opportunities ahead to collaborate, support, and share a greater love for all.