It was comfortable and yet strange sitting at the country club we rented. I was surrounded by a bunch of loud and laughing almost 30-year-olds who looked really familiar. On the table were red and black centerpieces, and in the corner was an old group picture of a bunch of crazy 18-year-olds holding signs that had their name on it. The room was full of professionals such as computer programmers, estimators, nurses, 911 operators, army platoon leaders, bank tellers, advertisers. Some were mothers and fathers. All of them were still crazy.
Reunions are wild…but fun.
The wildness of high school had not completely died out of my fellow classmates from yesteryear. The group picture of us at the country club was probably the most unruly, unorganized and fun mess of a photo-op I've had in years—I felt like I was in high school all over again. But 15 minutes later, we were outside on the porch, hanging out, dancing, snacking and acting like semi-civilized adults. Pretty good for a melting pot of students from the American South.
The high school I went to was a fairly typical cross-section of a medium-sized American city. There were the jocks, the nerds, the dancers, the drama-kids, the well-to-do families, the chorale kids, the band kids. There were the kids from the rough side of town (the 'projects' as they called it), the kids bused in from the other side of town, the ROTC kids, and even the emo/goth type.
Most of us, however, had grown up in good ways from the kids that we were. We were better adjusted to the 'real world' and how hard it can sometimes be. But with that hardness came a sometimes rough edge that appeared in the form of my old friends' speech, i.e. they had some pretty foul language at times. And that is where several of my closer friends reminded me of how important a good name is.
You have to remember, I hadn't seen most of these people since graduation night 10 years ago. And yet, what I saw that night, were people greeting me by my name with a huge smile and on-the-fly changing the way they spoke to me because of my reputation from years ago. They removed those colorful four letter words that normally would be sprinkled in their speech like salt and pepper on a baked potato.
I wish I could say that it was because I was an amazing man that these people spoke with cleaner language to me—but frankly it was because of my parents and a conviction from religion. I had a terrible vocabulary in middle school—I would cuss like a sailor because I hung out with a looser crowd. It changed around high school because that's when I realized that there was something to this 'church' thing. There was something about being a hypocrite that finally got to me.
I knew it was hypocritical for me to tell my friends they should clean up their language when mine was equally as awful. Jesus said let your “Yes be yes, and your no be no” (Matthew 33:37 Matthew 33:37
American King James Version×). So, when you are that age, generally you have two options: Learn to clean up your own language or learn not to care about it. I chose the former, but several of my classmates through the years decided the latter. The thing that surprised me at the country club this past weekend, however, was that they were nice enough to consider that I didn't talk like that. They didn't have to, but they changed on their own ways for me.
My friends knew there was a better way to act, and in a small way, I acted as a light in their life. One old friend pulled me aside and explained that her Mom, who I only met once back before highschool, asked about whether I would be there at the reunion because I was the only one she remembered. I never meant to have an apparently really good reputation, but with the help of my family (both by blood and in the Church) I made an impression on several people.
After I left the reunion in the wee hours of the night, I thought about my friends. I thought about high school. I thought about God. I wasn't the most successful person there at the reunion. I certainly don't make the most money. Nor do I have a beautiful wife, and I have no kids. But I made an impression on several of my classmates.
I realized that Solomon was right—“A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, loving favor rather than silver and gold” (Proverbs 22:1 Proverbs 22:1A GOOD name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favor rather than silver and gold.
American King James Version×). The funny thing is that I didn't even realize I was choosing a good name.
For those of you that have tried to have a good reputation, keep it up—the feeling I had that night was amazingly encouraging. For those who don't have a reputation worth talking about, and didn't have the benefit of a family and church that helped encourage that in you—maybe today should be the day to start.