#76: A Different Kind of Class Reunion

#76: A Different Kind of Class Reunion

It surprises new friends of mine to learn that I attended a large state university. And rightly so; I have more of a bookish personality than one suited to a party school where football is king. Those who know me well assume the reality show of my collegiate life would bear a closer resemblance to “Real Stories of the North Campus Library” than “Girls Gone Wild.” A correct assumption, for the most part.

As a high school senior, I applied to smaller schools with quieter reputations, but my trajectory was set the moment I received the thick “WELCOME!” envelope from the University of Georgia. As the most average of students I was super fortunate to be accepted by my first choice school. But I have often wondered what my college experience would have been like on a smaller campus, where I might have had an easier time finding my confidence, not to mention a tribe of like-minded, library-loving individuals.

My sense of regret is rather strong when I hear friends speaking warmly of their college reunions. Many go year after year, eager for a chance to reconnect with those with whom they matriculated. In contrast, I am not sure I would recognize a single person I attended classes with if they walked up to me and offered the secret English Major handshake. There are reasons for this: large class sizes; a huge campus; my shyness and poor memory. And the fact that there is no secret English Major handshake (handshaking being far too athletic a greeting for readerly/writerly types).

However, I just attended an event that I imagine had a lot in common with a college reunion, though it had nothing to do with any alma mater.

Having worked for the same organization for over two decades, I’ve known a lot of co-workers who have come and gone from my department alone. Though conditions are vastly improved now, back in the day we were referred to by upper management as “a necessary liability” and our livelihoods were in a constant state of peril. The work we did was hard and under high pressure. The close quarters of our tiny offices and our wildly different personalities meant for occasional clashes. But something about our ministry service has knit our hearts together in a lasting way.

We gathered today for a sad occasion – to honor the memory of the husband of my former boss. I have spoken with Susan only a handful of times since she left ministry employment over 10 years ago, though I have prayed for her often. But seeing her, even under such somber circumstances, brought me such joy. And for every familiar face I had a rush of memories – I, who cannot remember my car tag number – recalled timeworn moments as crystal-clear as anything I’ve experienced recently. No matter if I never see one of those familiar faces again in this life, I will forever treasure them because of the time we labored together. And one of the most comforting blessings of being believers in Jesus Christ is knowing that our separations are only temporary.

As a single person with no children and little family, I think too often about being alone and how I wish the circumstances of my life were different. Sometimes I feel sad and sorry for myself, missing many loved ones who have passed away. Wishing I had a larger circle of friends with nothing but free time to spend together, like in our college days. Pondering the meaning of a verse Amy mentioned a few pamphlets back, “God sets the lonely in families” (Ps. 68:6). There are many days in my empty house when it feels like that verse applies to everyone but me.

But gatherings like today remind me that I’m part of a larger family. We’ve lived and studied the circumstances of life together in a different type of school. Some of the lessons and tests have been hard beyond belief. But the reunion is coming. We won’t have to wear name tags, but will know as we are known. And we will never say, “Goodbye” again.

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