I’d had second thoughts about attending a recent class reunion. I don’t like reminiscing about the "good old days." Perhaps this is my way of denying mortality or attempting to make a memorable time stand still, a time in which we dreamt youthful dreams.
I went to school with Italians, Polish, Irish, a Greek and Germans, plus a mixture of other cultures. Each blessed our class with a wonderful multicultural flavor. Most of all, it possessed a camaraderie that grew with time.
Ultimately, I ended up attending our class reunion and thank God for doing so. I say this because I realized that much of the spirit I possess today is due in great part to classmates who helped create it.
What is this spirit?
As a high-school student, I was not well-equipped for learning Latin, Greek, German, algebra and numerous other courses. I remember receiving 45 percent on one of my algebra tests. Across the aisle, a fellow student also had flunked the test. Together we commiserated. Thanks to that mutual support, we managed to pass the course. The experience helped us bond. It taught me that with a good friend, you can get through almost anything.
There were days in the seminary that I thought I would crack up. Philosophy was taught in Latin, plus we had a ton of other courses. When I confided my anxiety to a classmate, he remarked, "The main goal of our studies is to make us think." The simple observation helped reduce my uneasiness by giving me a new perspective on the meaning of our studies.
Another classmate who tutored me remarked one day, "You aren’t stupid, you are afraid. Loosen up and you’ll get it." He freed me to the point that I went from the bottom of the class to its top.
While playing the violin during a performance, a fellow orchestra member urged me to put more zest in it. I still play the violin, and I still take his advice when playing a lively composition.
And then there was the jolly classmate who made us laugh when rules and studies weighed heavily on us. He brought the power that laughter possesses and got us through anxious moments.
None of us is our sole master.
We are a composite of spirits spawned in us by those crossing our paths. Yes, attending the class reunion consisted in recounting old times. But for me it consisted especially in appreciating a vital spirit that lives in me, thanks to my classmates.
Father Hemrick is a columnist for Catholic News Service.