25 years is making me sick

I wrote the majority of this blog post yesterday.


Today is my 25th high school reunion. And I am terrified.

Circumstances have prevented me from attending any previous reunions, so this will be the first time that I have seen a lot of the people with whom I graduated.

And 25 years is a long time.

A lot years. A lot of changes. Both physically and emotionally.

This morning, what I am feeling is that I have come home again. And it is scary.

When I think about why I am feeling this way, I guess that I am not really that surprised. The people with whom I graduated were some of the most important people in my life from the ages of 5 to 18. Those years helped form the person that I am today, though they aren’t fully responsible for the person that I am today.

During those years, I wanted to fit in, be liked, have friends, be “one of the gang”….all those John Hughes’ 80’s movies clichés (those were the movies of my generation — Pretty in Pink, Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off). I struggled with all those big-screen emotions, all those insecurities, in my small-town life.

I have discovered that when my 43-year-old self is put back into the midst of my 18-year-old self dynamic, my 18-year-old self insecurities are revived.

It’s like going into a house of horrors — I think it’s going to be fun, but I’m pretty sure I’m going to get the shit scared out of me.

If I weren’t experiencing this, I would find this extremely interesting. Really, I find it interesting regardless. Do we ever outgrow our adolescent angst? Do those demons, the ones that were most prevalent through those most precious formative years, ever completely let go of our psyche? I am a much different person than the one I was 25 years ago, as I would assume all my classmates are, as well. The ways that I have changed, whether good or bad, have made me more comfortable with who I am than I was even last year. But….throw people who haven’t seen me in 25 years into the equation and BOOM! Terror. I think that I may be having one of those “too much in my head” moments.

So, Thomas Wolfe — you can go home again. And my trip is filling me with anxiety.



I had a lot of fun yesterday and it was really great to see so many people who I hadn’t seen in so many years.

And the greatest thing — I learned that many of us are in the same place in our lives. Questions about careers, family responsibilities, growing older, children, etc. We are all struggling with and celebrating many of the same life events and milestones. And with maturity, with the ability to look beyond myself, I can finally see how we all connect. And how we always did. But as that young, immature 18-year old, barely able to see beyond my own self and own needs, it was harder to see the connection that was there all long.

Perspective is a marvelous thing.

Lending a hand on Labor Day

I worked today on Labor Day.  It was a uncrowded commute, a park-anywhere, infrequent email-kind of day.  And at the end of the work day, I was reminded of why I am glad that I am a laborer and have a paycheck

I pulled into the gas station and put the nozzle into the fuel tank.  I was walking around to the other side of my car to gather my little car trash container to empty it when I heard someone ask me, “Ma’am, do you know where Camden Avenue is?”

I looked to the car parked beside me, and there was a man and a woman in the front seat and a small girl in the back seat.  The man was shirtless and the little girl was very quiet and seemed sad.

“No,” I said, “I don’t know where that is.”

The man continued to describe to me that they were out of gas and had spent the night in their car last night.  He had a job and was expecting to get a paycheck the next day, but didn’t have enough for a hotel room last night or today.  He said that there was a church on Camden Avenue and the people at that church had said that they could provide him with some money if he could get to the church.

I dug around in my purse and found $5 (I never carry cash — it’s a bad habit of mine to be cash-less) and gave it to him.  I mentioned another church just down the street that I felt would surely offer them some help.

He told me over and over again that he hated to ask for money, but he couldn’t bear to spend another night in his car, especially since his wife was also pregnant.  He said that his pride was out the window at the moment.

I found the directions to Camden Avenue on my phone and wrote them down for him.  The whole time that this is happening, I am looking at the sad little eyes of the small girl sitting in the back seat, thinking, “I am so blessed.  I have food.  I have shelter.  I have more than I need.  Thank You, God, for my blessings.”

He said that he was going to ask a few more people for money in order to put some gas in his car, because he was on empty and couldn’t drive any further.  But he thanked me for the $5 and the instructions and I drove away.

A few seconds out of the parking lot, I realized, “DUH!  I could use my debit card to put $10 or $15 of gas in his car!”  So, I turned around to do that.

And met him just pulling out of the gas station…right after he had said that he didn’t have enough gas to go anywhere.

I think, maybe, just maybe, I got scammed.

So, the question is:  Did they deserve my help?

No, probably not.  But if we only helped people who deserved our help, there wouldn’t be a whole lot of helping go on, would there?  I can think of numerous times in the past week alone where people helped me and I didn’t particularly deserve it, either because it was my job to do it in the first place or because I had a bad attitude about a specific issue.

And how do we measure someone’s “deserved-ness”?  Is it due to the Rule of Reciprocity? i.e. if they help me, then I can help them?  If that’s the case, then the first one that helps is taking a chance that the reciprocity is going to kick in at some unknown point in the future.  And if it doesn’t, are there take backs?

Is it based on the moral character of the persons involved?  “He is so nice that I should help him.”  Again, what happens when he isn’t so nice, because at some point, he is going to have a bad day and show his ass.  Or make a comment that I don’t like.  Or not laugh at one of my (hilarious) jokes.  No more help?

Do they have to earn it?  I think the guy from today really sold me a story.  He earned the $5 just with his story about sleeping in cars, a pregnant wife (she didn’t look pregnant, but she could have been), a paycheck to be delivered tomorrow, a car almost out of gas.  It was a really good story and very well delivered.

But these examples rely on the actions of others and I would rather base my willingness to help, my willingness to give, on me, on my decisions, on my character.

It makes me think of God.  He helps me, blesses me, saves me not because I deserve it or act in any way to earn it.  Because I don’t.  He does it because He is God and He chooses to.  (I am not claiming to be like God, but I am trying to be more Christ-like.)

So, I’m not mad at myself or at Mr. Slept-in-the-Car-All-Night.  He needed something and maybe the only way he could see to get it was to lie.  And while I may have unknowingly participated in his potential lie (do you like my disclaimers in case the guy ever reads this blog and wants to sue?), I helped my fellow-man.

Happy Labor Day, y’all.