The observations of a not so impartial bystander - Bill - August 21, 2008

As we got together for our last meeting in preparation for the 40th reunion celebration, we were all taken by the experience.  Planning and corresponding has exposed us to many stories and bits and pieces of former classmates' lives.  We were all saddened by the loss of so many, and with Ed's passing early this year, learning of each departure became more personal.  Each reality was inescapable.  We shouldn't be surprised.  Which of us has not been touched by the loss of someone dear?  So, our wish to see our old friends again only grew.  In this light, we wondered why so many people remained indifferent.

I don't think it's just the wrinkles, (like in my case) that extra 15 lbs., or the fact that we don't look 18 anymore.  Actually someone found my graduation picture a while back and I have been taking grief from my 8-year-old and my 34-year-old about it ever since.

I think about some of our conversations.  How many times did someone mention the great accomplishments, a palatial building bearing a classmate's name, someone climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, and though we may have made a joke or a quip, didn't we all secretly say to ourselves, "Wow I never even came close."  We live in a society where you are what you do (especially the men), and we are at a point in our lives where some are asking, "What have I really done?"

Ed W. seemed to have grasped the importance of seeing everyone for who they are, not for what they have done.  I am sure there are more than a few who are not so secure, or who haven't recognized the importance of the everyday victories we may all share.

I am sure there are some who are at a point in their life where they feel they have "failed", and seeing the successes of so many others is just too much.  We may not be able to reach them, but I'm equally certain, there are more than a few in the gray area who take their own measure from how far they are below the bar, instead of how far they have come.  To use an Olympic metaphor, how many fourth-place finishers can anyone name?  Yet, just being there puts them in the smallest percentage of all the athletes in the world.  We focus on the few centimeters a runner falls short, instead of the other 99.98 meters they sprinted.  I think we all need to be reminded of the celebration of the effort, not just the result.

I have observed committee members in silent acknowledgment of doctoral degrees, business success, and other great achievements, while at the same time failing to recognize their own accomplishments.  One has successfully completed two, maybe three careers, raised a family, and created his own private "estate."  Another, a teacher, has planted the seeds for countless future leaders and achievers.  Still another has had personal experiences that would put any made for TV movie to shame.  The others have performed similarly, yet none seems to admit their own "accomplishments."  They all have done so much, but people don't see in themselves what they are so quick to see in everyone else.  I wonder if it's any different for the rest of the class?  We need to find a way to tell people we want to see them, not their resume.

Bill

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