To everything there is a season…and this year it is reunion season
“Is forty years and some high some school friends a good reason to go to a reunion?”
In January, a friend asked me casually if I had heard anything about whether we (meaning my high school graduating class of 1983) were having a reunion in 2023. Before that moment, I hadn’t thought about a reunion much. We had graduated forty years before, and the time elapsed suddenly felt significant, so I enlisted a few friends in a discussion concerning our forty-year anniversary.
Now before I share my thoughts on planning our reunion fun and what the results have been, I want to say that these are my thoughts, from my perspective. Everyone on our committee is different and involved for different reasons, but I wanted to share mine.
First, we wanted to know if any other people were interested in a reunion because if not, “Hey we could just go on a cruise!”
Initially, in response to interest, we created a Facebook page which generated hundreds of interested participants in the first month. With those growing numbers in mind, our initial discussions included the number of attendees we might have. It seemed to us that the numbers of attendees would range from 200-400 based on our last reunion (which was around 200). We also had to consider they might be inflated by the 700 plus interested parties on our reunion page. Ultimately, our gathering space had to be large, right?
Maybe if I had stopped to think the whole thing through, I might not have moved forward with the plans. No one would blame me if I just let it go at the onset. But I couldn’t, because it felt like there was purpose.
Our first big dilemma was “Where would we hold an event and for that matter, what kind of event?”
As we discussed possibilities, with our numbers of 200 plus in mind, we investigated the ideas that arose. There was a wonderful alumni space at the school we graduated from, but no alcohol could be consumed there and no tobacco products. The true max attendance was 175, so we axed that idea pretty quick. As we searched, we realized most places were just too small.
We considered outdoor or covered area picnics and issues came up quickly: personal liability, permits, difficulty getting a space without knowing how many would show up, and did I mention our southern summer weather? In the end, the logistics of bringing in rental tables, chairs, and food were problematic for an outdoor summer gathering in August with so many people in the heat and NO budget. That turned out to be a sound decision considering the heat this summer of 2023. While writing this the heat index was 107, so no.
Somewhere along the way we realized we had to also consider security in the era of an on edge populace too.
You just don’t know who might be volatile or unhappy in our post Covid world and how they might act especially if alcohol was involved.
Furthermore, it was quickly apparent that we would have to sell tickets to get money to do any event and we needed some way to do that.
Taking a look at our upper 50’s age group, you might think something low key would work until you try to plan said event. Without a number, without money, and with few volunteers, we still wanted to make it work.
In all respects, ultimately cost became the paramount issue.
Everything had tripled in cost and more since our reunion 10 years ago.
By that point, we knew any event was going to be expensive, but it was dismaying to find out how expensive the type of space we needed was. I almost wish we had jumped ship at that point, but I kept talking to people who said they appreciated our hard work and couldn’t wait to come. Many had previously given up on planning their own reunions due to the same issues, so they expressed gratitude and excitement for us persevering. Finally, we found a location that would accommodate a large group and feed them in air conditioning, with rooms for out of towners, and it was local! Bonus, it was recently renovated and gorgeous, so we negotiated as good as deal as we could get.
Next, we hired a database to help us locate our classmates and give people a place to buy tickets. Everyone was so scattered. People had moved away, were not on Facebook anymore, married, remarried.
It was time consuming trying to find people after 40 years and ways to contact them. Since then, we have been continually trying to find people and pay for our reunion.
Fast forward to this writing. We are a few weeks out and I have been feeling overwhelmed.
After all our focus our ticket sales are steady, but not quite where they should be yet. Also, when I heard that a few folks were out there running down the event and our choices (without any idea how decisions were made and why) it was disheartening. In the middle of the fray, big events are like that though. Planners struggle and wrestle with details and issues to solve until the event starts.
I want to put aside struggle and enjoy the reunion.
Recently I asked the beleaguered committee to ask themselves, “Why do I personally want to go to this reunion?”
We are all dealing with a range of serious life issues and a little tired of the process, so I wanted to remind us all why we started the reunion quest. Why is it important? In order to be sincere in our invitations to others and to keep moving forward, we needed a reminder as to why we got involved in the first place.
My own answer to this question was so personal I almost couldn’t share with them why I felt it we had done the right thing by working on such a frustrating endeavor.
For me, the reunion was and is a God thing.
I get that calling it a God thing maybe not resonate with others, but I see this moment through the lens of how I ended up planning a reunion that I wasn’t interested in planning in the first place.
At the most basic, I saw the need.
If you ask, “Why should we gather for any reunion? What is so important about connecting, especially when we may not know many people there anymore? Don’t we have enough to worry about?”
To answer that question, I have felt strongly from the beginning that people need connection. We need to rejoice on purpose, and particularly get beyond our four walls. In this way, the reunion is like traveling. We get beyond our small world and grow, expand our community and live.
Gather, connect, be merry.
These days it is more important than ever. You never know who or what you might need in crisis or who might need you. You might learn something new or meet someone that becomes important in your life.
Many of us lost our community or parts of our communities and loved ones during Covid chaos. Then we retreated inside our homes and lives, because we were pushed there. The outcome for some is that fear and anxiety still bubble under the surface of daily life. However, if we gather, God can heal some hearts, encourage us, strengthen us and bring joy.
Over the past few years, we may have neglected relationships trying to survive the constant negative. Personally, my first instinct is to hole up and regroup when I am threatened, so I had unintentionally severed many ties. Watching businesses fail and people lose their jobs affected everyone. It was hard to live joyfully through the last few years.
It was just as hard to keep living while others didn’t.
In retrospect, people are still in self-protection mode. We have been closing ranks and gathering in our own tribes to keep safe and keep our sanity intact. But not everyone has a tribe to lean on. Many of our classmates are the ones that others lean on instead.
Ultimately, I found in my own experience working on this reunion, listening to powerful successful women discuss life is an eye opener.
Don’t assume anyone has it easy. No one is immune from tragedy and sorrow. While working on this reunion over the last few months, our committee of planners grew closer to one another, shared sorrows and happy moments. We gathered and got to know each other better and shared incredible moments.
The joy in gathering helps us weather all that we have experienced. Proverbs reminds us that A merry heart does us good like medicine.
Recently, I heard someone remark, “I don’t care about those people anyway. I mean I see the people I want to see all the time.”
My first thought in response to that sentiment was “Maybe you don’t need to see some of those people, but maybe one or more of those need to see you.”
At the last reunion, I reconnected with friends and made new ones.
Those same friends are the ones helping with this event bearing the burden for others.
One of my friends calls these people in our lives “heart people.” You may not see them every day, but you could call on any one of them to help you in times of trouble or need.
So, I am going to keep the faith and keep working our joy giving event right until the last song of the last minute of the reunion. All the while we will pray for those meant to come, those meant to help, and those who are in limbo or in need.
Let’s pray our gather, connect, and be merry reunion brings joy, growth, strength and healing to every person involved.
Ecclesiastes reminds us, there is a time and a season for every purpose under heaven, and I believe this reunion season is a time to laugh, a time to show love, help others heal, and a time to dance and celebrate.
Barefoot and preparing to gather with old friends and make new ones,
To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven. Ecclesiastes 3:1