Tuesday, July 26, 2011

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished Part II

Now where were we? Oh yeah, Well, okay, I said. Let's put that issue on hold I thought. I had another idea. A comprehensive directory that would compile all the information we were finding, all the information that the reunion committee was holding in trust for the class, old pictures, current pictures, a little bio. A lot of this information has been collected over the years. The Directory with a capital D was just begging to be done. The information on the website was minimal. If a classmate provides contact info but doesn't register, you don't even get a clue  as to what state they're in.

So I approached the committee with this idea. "We publish a directory with every reunion", they replied. Having copies of those, I pointed out that they only represented the people that attended the reunion; that they were smaller with each successive issue; that we had 621 or so classmates. Not attending reunions does not diminish membership in the class. I explained that this would be in addition to the Reunion, in addition to the attendance directory and in no way was it meant to diminish the Reunion; only reinforce it.

Needless to say, my suggestion that I have access to the available information was left dangling in the wind. Based on my experience in finding people so far, everyone was thinking about or looking for someone. They asked me. Often, they said the directory information they had was wrong or outdated being at least several years old. Some folks have said that they just got the reunion mailing. I'm told more than 300 went out. How many will come back?  If any more current information was available to the committee, it was a secret closely held by them. I found it difficult to understand; and I couldn't bring myself to believe it either.

We continued to send information about lost classmates and began updating some classmates data that we found differing from the published information of the 40th. The response we were getting was getting decidedly cooler, "we knew that already", and the incoming Facebook messages increased expressing hostility to my questions raised in the blog, even though I repeatedly lauded their perseverance and efforts. Despite my blogging on reconnecting, despite months of finding and connecting people, I have recently been targeted as a divisive and negative force. It's there in the written record and some rather Machiavellian Facebook messaging that is not meant to be public. I asked myself why am I being singled out like this? Well, Linda has not been spared either. She received several scathing emails that certainly dampened our enthusiasm for the project. Quit hurting the feelings of the committee; quit being negative; you're not even a class member anyway, your blogs are not appreciated. If finding lost classmates, making constructive suggestions and asking questions why and spending hours finding the lost are negative, then I guess I don't understand the concept. You certainly won't see any self serving surveys on my Facebook page. We don't need to solicit reinforcement to dedicate ourselves to a task that needs to be done for everyone's benefit.

If the routine of doing reunions becomes the end all and be all; if the event overshadows the meaning, then the meaning is diminished. This is not just about the event. What is the event supposed to be but a celebration of the process of reconnecting everyone? This should be about getting as many classmates together in one place and one time and doing whatever is necessary to make that happen.

My opinions are simply that. Based on my own "extensive experience" (to paraphrase the committee), I think we need a place where we can go to exchange contact information on a voluntary basis so we can reconnect with people we lost track of, for whatever reason. I think a directory distributed to classmates is a good way to do that without compromising whatever privacy the internet has left us. The Evansville folks have not had a single complaint about having their classmates have their contact information and that's on the website. To the contrary, so many have thanked us for creating the thing for the class. Clusters of classmates are meeting in Texas and Colorado and Florida. It has just been so great. I can't understand why a reunion committee would be so resistive to the concept of classmates being able to reunite with each other?

So here is the bottom line. With or without the help of the committee, we will try to build the directory. I will stop blogging to the class Facebook page and only link to my personal page, since my opinions are too negative for that oh so friendly place. I will continue to forward contact information to the committee regardless of their reaction because despite what has been said, I do want the reunions to be a success. They just won't include me or Linda. Yes we have differences with the reunion committee. Differences over what the mission of a reunion committee should be, what their trusteeship of the class information should be, what the role of the committee should be in keeping in contact with its constituency. They are philosophical differences, not personal ones, certainly not ones that justify the kind of venom to which we have been subjected.

Perhaps you should take it as a sign of my dedication to doing this directory despite the, dare I say it, negative reaction from the reunion committee; I know my classmates want this to happen, based on those I have already spoken to, and that makes it worth doing. So in the coming months, you may get a phone call or email  from us, inviting you to participate in this grand project: Can a class of over 600 people create something together after 45 years that will let them find their old friends and properly memorialize those who are no longer with us? I truly believe so, and I hope that you agree. This was supposed to be a fun thing. It almost wasn't, but will be again. It may take a little longer without the existing class database, but it will happen.

By the way, Tim and Chris (Lurie) Henneman are a couple weeks away from their South Carolina move from North Carolina to be closer to their kiddies and Bob Guzallis is living in East Rutherford and making a living as a photographer. When asked if he would be interested in having his contact information in a directory, his reaction was "Why not?". Why not indeed.

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