A Janitor and The Class Reunion

If you could… would you go back to high school? I’m not sure of your experience, but I wouldn’t go back even though I enjoyed those formative years. Fortunately, there is the historical tradition of a class reunion that allows all of us to see old friends, tell stories, and reminisce about the good, the bad, and the ugly of our high school days. 

 When I graduated, my 600+ classmates dispersed all around the world, and I wouldn’t see most of them again until the five or ten-year reunion. When you think about prepping for your reunion experiences, did you get excited and energized, or was it more like apprehensive, nervous, fearful, and nauseous?    

Since the very first reunion was ever held, this is the question that needs to be asked:  “Do we go to reunions to learn about what others have done or are dreaming to do, or do we go to judge and be judged by what we have or have not done ourselves? 

We all think and care about what people think of us. It’s human nature. So as I was prepping to attend my ten-year reunion, I felt great about walking in. I was happily married to my college sweetheart, we were on the verge of starting our family, my pharmaceutical career was doing great, and life was good. 

The night came and as we arrived I quickly began to notice the superficial and repetitive nature of the questions being asked.  

  • What do you do? 
  • How are you doing? 
  • How is it going? 
  • Where do you live? 

As this continued to go on, I decided to take a risk and go in a different direction. One I hoped would elicit a different response. So I began to ask one simple question, “Have you found your passion in life?” 

That simple yet complex question yielded the most incredible responses. Person after person lit up as they shared very personal stories of success and failures. This one simple question cut through the clutter and noise of the bland conversation and penetrated the heart of the person I was communicating with that evening. 

Then at one point in the evening, I walked up to an old friend I had not seen since graduation. I asked the question about “passion,” as I had done all night long, and he just stood there in silence, staring at me. He then told me that no one had ever asked him that question. As he started to talk, I could see the emotion in his eyes. His answer was a simple “Yes”. 

After that, I was curious as to what he was doing for a living. He went on to explain that he was employed as one of the janitors in our high school. He then shared how he was nervous about sharing that news with others because his life choices might not meet the expectation of what others might think he should be. He explained how he loves being around the energy of the school, the impact of the environment created by and for the students, and the opportunity he gets to be with his family every evening for dinner. How amazing is that? 

What dawned on me in recalling this is that when we operate in a place of purpose, it does the following. 

  • Alters our perspective
  • Shifts the energy of a conversation
  • Reinforces what impact is all about
  • Makes a difference for others
  • Has long-term value in building relationships

 After reflecting on that evening and writing this blog, it is the only conversation that I remember from that night. 

How about you? Do you live in a constant social rat race of being what you think you ought to be? Living a life that is defined by what others want you to be is self-limiting. We all know that social media doesn’t help us with this. 

We need to learn to focus on who we want to be and how we can get there. Remember the phrase “bloom where you are planted!” This phrase centers on taking advantage of the opportunities you have in life right where you are.  

Thinking back to my high school reunion, it’s amazing how a single conversation can change your world. So a huge thanks to my friend for impacting me in ways he never knew. Until now! 

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