Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.Â Attributed to Philo of Alexandria
I had a remarkable, even miraculous experience on Saturday night. As weÂ left my high-school class’s party, my husband asked if I’d had a good time. “I feel like Cinderella,” I said. “I feel like this evening made high school worth it.”
WeÂ had gatheredÂ to celebrate our 60th birthdays this year. The mood was celebratory, but, even so, everyone’s kindness was inexplicable. What happened was that bunches of people said bunches of nice things to me. I can’t account for this, because they weren’t so forthcoming at previous reunions, including our 40th two years ago.Â
“Boys” who never glanced at me in high school (or so I thought), whom I would have dated in a heartbeat, approached me to say astonishing things. OneÂ revealed thatÂ he had always feltÂ a connection between us. Another said he was glad I was always there. Two female classmates–with whom I’m pretty sure I exchanged not a word in high school–said…well, they just said a whole lot of nice things. This happened over and over, all night. None of these people were drunk, as far as I could tell.
Finally, near the evening’s end, an Adonis I had always admired from afarÂ told me that my smile helped get him through high school. I looked behind me to see who he was really talking to. He smiled and pointed directly at me. “I had a terrible time in high school,” he said. “And when I came in tonight and saw you, I remembered how much your smile meant to me. I just had to come over to tell you.”
Then he told me a little about his adolescent struggles, coping with a family death and other problems. I told him I had had no idea. I thought his life was hunky-dory. (It was mine that sucked.) “I was good at hiding my feelings. I covered everything up so I wouldn’t have to deal with it,” he told me. Didn’t we all.
I hesitate to write about this because of how self-serving it sounds. Trust me–I was not a saintly presence spreading love and good will in my high school. I was quiet, confused, judgmental, afraid, self-conscious, overly serious, and largely oblivious to other people’s pain.
My surreal, moving, and hilariously unlikely experience last weekend demonstrated that I had no idea what was going on around me at Oakwood High School circa 1969.Â Nobody escapes high schoolÂ unscathed. The cool people were, perhaps, Â just as unhappy as you.Â And maybeÂ the cool people in your life right now, the ones you envy,Â find encouragement inÂ your sheepish smile.
Your thoughts about high school, reunions, and Philo of Alexandria would be very welcome.