This was my first high school reunion. It was only our 10th but I was still amazed at how much some people had changed.
There were some surprising beauties that had blossomed out of nowhere and star athletes that were "not so much" anymore.There was hilarious reminiscing and of course the heart stopping arrival of my high school sweetheart-- now married with children-- just like me.
We were all spending too much time trying to impress each other with our accomplishments and progress as mature adults when our old Principal appeared and sat us down because he had something important to share.
He sounded very somber-- like when he announced during school that President Kennedy had been assassinated. He definitely had our attention.
Our class of 350 graduated during the early stages of the Vietnam war. But we were shocked when he announced that nine of our classmates had lost their lives in Vietnam. He started reading the list and recounting how each had died.
We sat there silenced by sadness and memories. Most of them I knew and remembered, some I didn't.He saved two for last.When he read their names we all knew why.
They were the geeks, the outcasts, and most of us were guilty at some point of poking fun at them--letting them know how uncool they were.
I remembered throwing my gum into the hair of one of them. It stuck and he couldn't get it out. It was on the bus, and I was trying to fit in with the rowdy bunch. I remember feeling awful watching him try unsuccessfully to get it out.
When the rowdies got off the bus I sat next to him. He was very pale with straight up white hair and always looked like he was blushing. He didn't know who threw the gum. I didn't confess. I tried to act normal and although he smiled and said “hi” I could see he just didn't trust that anyone would talk normally to him. Then he got off the bus, the gum still obvious in his hair. I felt sick that I did that to him.What a stupid way to try to be cool.
The other outcast was his best friend. He was the son of immigrants, with an unusual name we made fun of, a unique and unacceptable fashion style, and was crazy about science and mathematics.They were both great students and we ostracized them for caring about school so much.I never saw them at dances or parties. We pretty much kept them out of our world.
Then the principal told us the story of how they died. When he finished there wasn't a dry eye in the room. Tears of sorrow. Tears of shame.They died together as heroes.We would never think of them as geeks again.
While most of us dreaded being drafted those two enlisted in the Army together. They went through boot camp together and both trained to be helicopter pilots-- ending up as medi-vac pilots stationed together near heavy combat in Vietnam.
One day on separate missions to rescue wounded soldiers, one was sent into a brutal firefight and was forced down-- his copter shot to pieces. The other, whose mission was just completed, returned immediately to rescue him. He too was shot down. Both died when enemy forces overwhelmed them.
Both were awarded posthumous metals for outstanding bravery.
We couldn't have been more proud of them – or more ashamed of ourselves. I gulped down my guilt and tried not to sob out loud because that wouldn't be cool.
So what is it about having to be cool? Having to look right, fit in, be acceptable? Is it worth the pain we cause people who don't make the grade?
We learned that day how unimportant cool really is. We learned what it meant to be a real man – to be courageous, loyal, to fight for what you believe in. To be a hero.I am so sick of having to be cool.
I am in love with a God doesn't give a flip about what I look like, what I wear, or how much stuff I own. In fact, Jesus went out of his way to befriend the outcasts the less than, the uncool.Instead of Princes he hung out with lowly fisherman. Instead of the wealthy and powerful he chose the poor and humble. Instead of the self righteous he chose sinners.He never judged by appearances, he saw the heart instead.The only cool I ever want to be is to be more like Him.
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