Two pieces of advice: 1) Don’t throw away your junior high yearbook. 2) If someone invites you to spend an evening with four best friends who haven’t seen each other in fifty years, do it. And stick around until the yearbooks come out.
I lucked into just such an evening recently. An old friend of my parents had recently attended her fifty-year high school reunion, and her closest friends from that time had gathered together for a few extra days. She invited my mom and me to spend an evening with the group. It didn’t occur to me until the drive home that I’d just been honored to spend an evening with my elders.
Because we don’t much practice respect for our elders, the term for me conjures up tribal matriarchs in smoky tepees giving sage and perhaps difficult to understand advice. This is wisdom—mysterious in both content and transmission.
The evening bore no resemblance to that picture. The stories told ranged from hopping on a stranger’s motorcycle with a frog in order to arrive in Calaveras in time to register for the jumping frog contest to sneaking into the priest’s side of the confessional and accidentally hearing someone’s confession, complete with absolution and penance.
This is real wisdom—the gathered stories and laughter of lives fully and well lived, a love that survives an absence of fifty years, the sharing of both. We don’t find wisdom by trying not to make mistakes, by staying safe, or by striving to be good, as I often mistakenly believe. Wisdom finds us when we wade into life, when we enjoy the ride, when we look on the other side of the screen.
I’m certain none of those present thought of the evening as anything other than time spent with good friends. I can’t think of a wiser use of an evening.