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Friendship is no big thing

Food for Thought

Mari Jo, one of my high school classmates, added that little thought at the end of a recent letter. She’s known for sounding like a Hallmark card from time to time, and I don’t know where she gets all her little gems of wisdom. She’s an educator (owns and operates a private education center in Texas) so maybe it’s just one of those teacher things– meaningful mottoes to help kids remember stuff they’ll probably forget anyway.
What she wrote was, “friendship is no big thing; it’s a million little things.”
That sentiment was quite appropriate since she was writing her annual letter to be included in the newsletter I compile and send out to our classmates each spring. Even though I strong-armed everybody into participating in the newsletter a good many years ago, I’m always just a little bit surprised at how loyally they write, year after year, and how generously they help with the expenses of printing and mailing it. There are always some extra funds that help pay for sending copies to some of the classmates who don’t write, or who don’t write very often. That has paid off in many instances by coaxing someone back into the circle, getting them to write or send pictures of themselves or their grandchildren, even to make the effort to show up at a reunion when they’ve never before bothered.
At any rate, Mari Jo’s quote seemed like the perfect motto for the newsletter (which has been motto-less all these many years because I couldn’t think of anything appropriate.) So I promptly added it to the masthead. The more I think about the meaning of those few words, the more truth I see in it. And the more I realize how well it relates to the newsletter and its purpose.
When we started the project over twenty years ago, we had just enjoyed our forty-year class reunion. There had been no formal program or entertainment, but somebody suggested that we all try to remember some incident from our schooldays and take a couple minutes to remind the rest of us about it. It started out rather hesitantly and I thought it would fizzle out after a few people hauled out memories of homecoming games and school dances, but it kept getting better. The stories became more revealing, often more hilarious, and got longer as some anecdotes triggered more memories of things half-forgotten. The result of all this reminiscing was that we ended up actually talking to each other about our lives at the (then) present, rather than the usual reunion topics of where we lived, where we worked, how many children and grandchildren we had. And for the first time at a reunion, I could see that we were showing signs of caring about each other– genuinely interested, not just being polite. The old jealousies and rivalries and “can you top this” boasting disappeared, and the possibility of the newsletter was born. Later, I marveled that some of those same people who were nervous and tongue-tied in our high school speech classes turned out to be so voluble!
For as long as they were available, we had always invited our former teachers to be our guests at our reunions, and for quite a few reunions, we always had three or four teachers present. The one teacher who never missed, and who was our last surviving teacher, was June Boyd. She had been one of our teachers in junior high and she told us, years later, that she fell in love with our class and we were the reason she wanted to always teach junior high students. She said that we were special, that we were like a family of brothers and sisters and cousins who cared about each other. I don’t suppose we realized that at the time. We probably thought we were a typical class– little different from any other– hardly special in any way. Maybe it was Mrs. Boyd’s pointing it out to us that helped bind us together even more securely, but I do realize, now, that she was right.
We’ve lost about a third of our classmates over the years. A couple of those died quite young and, like all those who lives are cut short, they will always be remembered as we knew them, never growing old and wrinkled like the rest of us. We’ve lost touch with a few more whose whereabouts weren’t kept up to date. We realize that notifying your high school classmates of your new address every time you move is not a top priority, but we wish we could have kept track of everyone.
As for the rest of us, this year will mark sixty-two years since we graduated and we’ll get together one day in May for our annual mini-reunion. There’ll no doubt be a rash of eightieth birthday celebrations. I don’t expect to get to all the parties, even though it would be great fun, but I can always send birthday cards. That’s just one of those million little things that add up to what we call friendship.