College commencements take center stage in the month of May while High School graduations will run through the end of June. This also means that school reunions are often not far behind. The thought of reunions invokes a certain curiosity; for others panic. What are classmates up to? Who has kept their youthful looks? Their youthful spirit? Will your spouse/partner join you? The decision can cause so much stress that it is often one of the questions I ask when administering pre-marital counseling.
Despite the assumption that reunion will be filled with bravado and conceit, I’ve found that they are quite the opposite. Classmates are quick to share challenges and disappointments, while others give quick and heartfelt support and understanding. I hear a lot of “yeah, me too.”
This week I am attending my 35th college reunion. While it’s hard for me to believe it’s been that long, I was quickly reminded when I was walking through a dorm and heard “put it out, there’s an old man in the hallway.”
Several years ago, I created a list of questions primarily for individuals in their 20s and 30s who were amid transitions like graduations or a year of service. We turned those questions into a “Discernment Deck” - a collection of forty playing cards with questions to discuss and quotes to consider.
To compliment that set of questions, this year I created Reunion Reflections. Forty questions divided into four categories: self, family, college and the world.
So, if you’re hanging around the bar wondering what to say, or if you get stuck sitting next to someone you don’t know at a meal, maybe these questions will help. Better yet, maybe they will inspire questions of your own.
And oh, by the way, you look great!
Questions to Ask Yourself
• What part of the world do you long to see? How can you get there?
• Where do you find peace? How can you spend more time there?
• What would you do if you knew that you had thirty good years left to live? What would you do if you knew you only had five years?
• How do you understand your “spirituality”? Where do you feel most “spiritual”?
• Name three things that you want to do in the next five years. What are ways you can start doing them?
• “I’ve got something he can never have. The knowledge that I’ve got enough.” - Joseph Heller. Define what is “enough”?
• Where do you go to get help? Name a person you can turn to.
• What skill do you want to develop? Where can you learn it and how can you use it?
• Name a regret. Now throw it away. How do you feel now?
• At your memorial service, what reading do you want read? What music do you want played? What do you want people to say? (note: this is not a sad conversation)
Questions About Family
• If you could give your kids or other young people in your life three gifts that are not tangible (objects), what would they be?
• How has your life been different than your parents? Do you think you are happier?
• What is your favorite meal? Make it when you get home and share it with your family.
• Name something difficult in your life and think of a way to convey that to your family.
• How do you describe “family”? Do you see that changing over time?
• How can you transform feelings of disappointment with actions of affirmation?
• Has your family faced extreme hardship, tragedy, or deep sadness? If so, how have you encountered it and what advice do you have for others?
• If you had children and they have since left home, how have you adjusted to the new rhythm of life? If you do not have children, how have you engaged in the lives of younger people?
• Have you been in a place where you were called upon to take care of ailing parents? What was that like? What did you learn? What you can share with others?
• What is the right amount of support to give to family members as they get older (children, nieces, nephews, friends)? What family policies have you put in place and how have they worked for all involved?
Questions Related to College
• Find three people here at the reunion and make plans to do something with them in the next year.
• Name two classmates you are missing, contact them today and let them know you were thinking of them.
• What is meaningful about your reunion? What are ways you can find that meaning after the reunion?
• Do you think going to college enriched your life? If so, how so? If not, why not?
• Name a classmate that did something nice for you, no matter how small. Let her/him know what they did.
• What is a course you wish you had taken?
• When was the last time you told anyone your SAT scores?
• If you were going to have a dinner party, what five classmates would you invite?
• What advice would you give to someone who just got in to college? What advice would you give to someone who just got rejected?
• Who would you hope classmates would say about you if you weren’t around?
Questions About the World
• What social issue are you most concerned about ? How can you engage today, this year, and for the rest of your life?
• What do you think is the greatest issue facing the world today? What have you done about it? What do you plan to do about it?
• If you had $100,000 to give away in the next ten minutes, where would you give it?
• If you were going to invite six people in public life for a dinner party, who would you choose? What would you talk about?
• Have you ever planted a tree? If not, plant one. If you already, plant another. Where will you plant them?
• How can you reduce your consumption and simplify your life to make the world more sustainable?
• What can you do in your sphere of influence to encourage grace, love, and understanding?
• Frederick Buechner wrote that the place where you are called “is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet." Describe where these “meet” for you.
• Write your “Missing Statement": a sentence about you that you are not telling the world.
• In recent years have you helped imagine, launch and/or sustain an initiative born out of professional interests and/ or personal struggle or self-discovery? If so, explain. If not, how might you start?