A friend of mine is in dire straits, lying in a hospital in another state, fighting for her life. A friend I’ve known since I was 11, with whom I laughed, got silly, went to dances, cruised on senior spring break, and shared many a conversation that ended in smiles.
She was that friend, the funny one, the one you could always count on to cheer you up, to be nice to you when no one else did. And now her health is compromised, and we’re all hoping she’ll pull through.
How do I know we all are hoping that? Because another friend that I’ve known since I was 11 rallied our senior class together from Oregon to Vermont and everywhere in between, and asked people to send quick little videos sharing their warmest memories of our mutual friend in her hour of need.
Yesterday, driving home from my north, the kids and I plugged my phone into the car and while I drove, they watched and I listened. I asked for the tissues. I tried to see the road through the tears.
We graduated high school 27 years ago, and still 50-some classmates took the time out of their busy schedules and family lives to record and send a video to this fragile woman. That’s pretty amazing. That’s the kind of class and character I am proud to come from.
You never know what the people you grow up with are really like until something like this comes about. I mean, we danced to Forever Young by Alphaville at our prom, painted our faces brown and gold in the North Farmington Raiders colors for Homecoming spirit, and signed yearbooks promising to remember each other and to stay in touch.
But you know that never happens. A select few, maybe, but not the majority. We fly off for optimistic horizons and build lives we could not have imagined beneath our big hair and oversized sweatshirts.
So when something big happens many years later, and we all come back together with thinner hair and thicker waistlines, smiling into a hand-held camera, and sending our deeply felt love, well, that’s pretty cool.
It’s been that kind of week. Last night, as I lay on my bed trying to unwind from a day of coming home, I watched Team USA win gold medals in swimming and in gymnastics. I heard the crowd cheering U-S-A and saw Michael Phelps pumping his arms in the air along with the crowd and the Final Five smiling powerhouse gymnasts all linked together.
In a very small and focused way, and in the biggest way ever on the world stage, I am feeling proud to be a part of an incredible community.
Part of a group of people who care, who are strong, who are fighters, who stand tall and come out on top. I will never have the Olympic prowess and power of our athletes, but I can ride their coattails and say, that’s my country.
And with regard to my graduating class, I can look back and say, despite all the craziness of growing up and the yearning to break free and become my own person, I come from roots so deep, so planted in integrity and kindness and love.
It’s a good feeling. The best. Every major religion and philosophy preaches that the people and culture you surround yourself with has a deep impact. That if you hang around people who are negative and mean and violent, those qualities seep into your soul.
The same goes for kindness, love and understanding. When people choose to smile and see the glass as half full, the gold medal as possible, they sweep you into their own positivity and strength, until one day, we live in a world of happiness and possibility. That’s a good place to be.