40 Year Thoughts On Giving, Growing Older and Gaining Perspective
Recently I have had the pleasure of a mash of activity that has been challenging and enjoyable in multiple ways. In a little more than two weeks I have traveled in and through four states – Alabama, Florida, Mississippi and Georgia. I have breathed the air and walked the earth in two nations – the USA and South Africa. Occupied both northern and southern hemispheres having crossed the equator twice, thereby experiencing both summer and winter seasons.
I have driven a car from the left-hand seat on a right-hand road and the right-hand seat on a left-hand road, enjoyed two 40-Year High School reunions – Sherry’s in Starkville, Mississippi and mine in Douglasville, Georgia. I’ve enjoyed reminiscing with dozens of classmates, meeting new people and seeing lifelong friends and then returning home a year older after observing both of our 58 year birthdays with multiple celebrations. We both loved seeing all of our kids, grandkids and parents and I had the privilege of teaching two spiritual leadership workshops/conferences, had a guest speaking opportunity and covered over 21,000 miles.
But in all of that there was ONE MOMENT that I know will stay stuck between the cracks of my mind. It happened unexpectedly in Starkville, Mississippi.
The Starkville High School Reunion and the Douglas County/Lithia Springs High School Reunion were very different events. The Starkville gathering was an ordered, multi-faceted, two-day event that encouraged conversations, sharing, reminiscing and reflection. The DC/LS event was an one-evening, non-structured, celebration that mixed classic 70s music, good food, old and new friends and volume.
That moment in Starkville was the highlight of both on a level that I never expected at such an event. One of Sherry’s classmates, a student by the name of Carl Awh, left that sleepy little college town to craft quite a resume of accomplishment. He is now Dr Carl Awh (pronounced “Oh”.) Dr Awh completed a fellowship in Vitreoretinal Surgery and Research at the Duke University Eye Center with Dr. Robert Machemer, the “father of modern vitreous surgery.” He is now an internationally recognized clinician, surgeon, and educator. His special interests include macular surgery, diabetic retinopathy, macular degeneration, and the development of surgical devices and techniques. He has authored scientific articles on these subjects and on the topics of ocular trauma and intraocular tumors. Yes, as you, my inside conversation just said, “Wow, he’s an intelligent guy.”
As a distinguished alumnus, he was asked to speak to his fellow high school graduates in a reflective moment on the cumulative impact of their lives. His subject was, of course, visionary, but not of the ocular variety. Instead, Carl invited us to look in and look beyond. He talked about the cumulative impact of our lives as the ones released to the world in the Spring of 1977. How, as a class, they had lived more than 10,000 years and who might know how many more years we have as a group to live well, live large, live as a giver and lover and investor in the human family.
10,000 years. I do not how many times that figure came to my mind this Saturday night in Douglasville, Georgia, as I looked around the room and wondered about my class, my friends, my fellow Lions and Tigers from these two schools that, for three years in our school history were one.
10,000 years. What have we done with that? What will we do with what we have left? Many of us are anticipating retirement. Some of us are facing dilemmas beyond belief. A few of us have been laid to rest already and that number will begin to increase exponentially over the next twenty years.
10,000 years. I see it now. I feel it now. I want to get on a chair and scream it now. How many of those 10,000 have been redeemed? How many have been used to great gain? How many have been ignored, trashed or left behind never to be seen again? It matters not what has been. It matters what will be.
10,000 years. If there are 500 or more of us in our class and we average 20 years of life, we have that much more to give, see, experience, live and love in. I can only hope we ‘see’ what Dr Awh has opened our eyes to. I can only hope this message is replicated and repeated through my voice to those I know that were not in the room that night in Starkville.
I never expected a 40-Year High School Reunion to allow me to see how much we have to give.
I never expected a 40-Year High School Reunion to speak to my heart about growing older.
I never expected a 40-Year High School Reunion to give me a perspective I have never realized or acknowledged.
But, open my eyes, it did….speak to me, it is….reorient me to what has been and what we yet have opportunity to do, it did.
Life is found in purpose not accidents. Don’t anticipate laying life down in some retirement resignation from reality. Plan for purpose. Give. Love. Invest. Share your life!
Now, I give you that same challenge – See. Hear. Perceive.
Class of 1977, or 78 or whatever you claim…Be powerful. Be Purposeful. I so enjoyed my 40-Year Reunion but I was reacquainted with LIFE at Sherry’s. Thank you, Carl. I never knew you and may never see you again, but may your voice, vision and veritas resonate beyond that room in the Hilton Garden to the corners of the earth. As our group said forty years ago… “We’re all angels, going to heaven. We’re the Class of 77!” Let’s make that true through living, on purpose, in Grace – the power of Heaven to be all we are created and intended to be.
In moments like this, the truth of the ancient texts ring in my ears and heart and give strength to my vision…
So, since we stand surrounded by all those who have gone before, an enormous cloud of witnesses, let us drop every extra weight, every sin that clings to us and slackens our pace, and let us run with endurance the long race set before us.
We may feel alone, but we aren’t. We are surrounded by an army of witnesses. They have run the race of faith and finished well. It is now our turn.
Now stay focused on Jesus, who designed and perfected our faith. He endured the cross and ignored the shame of that death because He focused on the joy that was set before Him; and now He is seated beside God on the throne, a place of honor.
Consider the life of the One who endured such personal attacks and hostility from sinners so that you will not grow weary or lose heart. Among you, in your striving against sin, none has resisted the pressure to the point of death, as He did.
Indeed, you seem to have forgotten the proverb directed to you as children: My child, do not ignore the instruction that comes from the Lord, or lose heart when He steps in to correct you; For the Lord disciplines those He loves, and He corrects each one He takes as His own.
Endure hardship as God’s discipline and rejoice that He is treating you as His children, for what child doesn’t experience discipline from a parent? But if you are not experiencing the correction that all true children receive, then it may be that you are not His children after all. Remember, when our human parents disciplined us, we respected them. If that was true, shouldn’t we respect and live under the correction of the Father of all spirits even more? Our parents corrected us for a time as seemed good to them, but God only corrects us to our good so that we may share in His holiness.
When punishment is happening, it never seems pleasant, only painful. Later, though, it yields the peaceful fruit called righteousness to everyone who has been trained by it. So, lift up your hands that are dangling and brace your weakened knees. Make straight paths for your feet so that what is lame in you won’t be put out of joint, but will heal.
Pursue peace with everyone, and holiness, since no one will see God without it. Watch carefully that no one falls short of God’s favor, that no well of bitterness springs up to trouble you and throw many others off the path.
Do it…for the next 10,000 years!