A different view of my School Reunion by Paul Williams

Paul Williams, Class of 1984

I must admit that I was reticent about attending my 40th school reunion this weekend. I had been sick in the weeks prior to it, and not recovered fully. I’ve also become more reclusive and jealous of my private time over the last year or so and I am not a great socializer or drinking buddy (any more). And though I have fond memories of all the guys in my boys’ school class, I can’t say that I have formed deep lasting friendships with many of the guys that were in my class, but… despite it all, I decided to go.

The school always makes a huge effort in ensuring that the reunion weekend is something special and memorable. Over the four days of the event we were treated to a black-tie event, a keynote speaker, a full tour of the modern school grounds and facilities, a military cadet parade, major school sports all weekend and numerous class-shared meals and parties. It promised to keep me busy from the moment I arrived and give me memorable moments of shared good times to cherish for the rest of my life.

Class of 1984 Friday Class Party

Despite feeling ill, I pushed myself to attend all that I could… and I was not disappointed. Yet my surprise was that my delight was not due to the things I had expected.

Amongst all the socializing and camaraderie, I was deeply touched by that which was unseen, by that which most did not talk about or express overtly. For me, stepping back from the centre of the events to take care of my health, made me notice that I was left with a deep sense of emotion in the rooms where we celebrated. The emotion did not stem from the loud laughter or raucous banter, it was not due to the large group attending the reunion or the many toasts throughout the weekend. It was not in the nostalgia of stories of our childhood or in the pride at how the school we had attended had grown into something larger than we had ever envisioned.

Rather my soul felt delight in the smaller moments that appeared spontaneously as we met:

• The warm smile of an ageing man recognizing a childhood friend’s face after many years

• The powerful heartfelt hug and comforting grip of a life-hardened hand as men conveyed the fondness of the recollections of their past shared boyhood

• The longing in the eyes of each man as the stories recaptured those childhood adventures and the reckless abandon of their youth

• The humility in the eyes of men who have experienced hardship and pain and yet decided to continue day by day to pursue good things for themselves and their families

• The richness of joy in the face of a man who has held his grandchild in his hands for the first time, just a few weeks before this event

• The silent acceptance by all, of the deep anguish of the ones amongst us experiencing the pain of loss, of divorce or of illness and the compassion felt by many who had walked through the same anguish in their preceding years

• The softness of heart and gentleness of action for the man stuck in addiction and the pride and respect for the ones among us who have found sobriety

• The unhesitating acceptance of all for the man whom we had not seen for decades and who intimated in courage his unorthodox life choices, and his warmth at the realisation that he was unequivocally seen as one of us at heart

• The due care, no, the love, with which we all sought out every other man in the room to say “I see you, I recognize you, I cherish our shared history, it impacted my life and I am grateful for you.”

Even where our past childhood relationships had been strained and even when we had possibly deeply hurt each other in the past, we recognised that we are older and wiser now and there was a sense of forgiveness as we stood in mutual respect not letting those traumas from so long ago define our present.

Indeed, this 40th Reunion was a time of deep realisation and emotion. The peers whose acceptance I had looked for in my childhood, accepted me without hesitation, and they in turn, I pray, felt my acceptance.

It was a remarkable and unexpectedly revitalising event.

Class of 1984, I thank you. I see you, and you are wonderfully made. God bless you and keep you and make His face shine upon your lives.