A couple of weeks ago I attended a reunion of sorts.
It was a 100 year anniversary celebration for a not-for-profit charity that does advocacy for child welfare organizations. Those attending included many people with whom I worked prior to retirement.
As well as publishing an overview of its history of legislative and public policy achievements from 1912 – 2012, a celebration luncheon was held to mark the achievement of 100 years in existence as an association of member agencies.
The celebration was special as I spent the last ten years of my career employed as its Executive Director. In fact, I rushed back from my annual trip to New York for American Thanksgiving to attend the celebration.
The event attracted retired and current executives who came from across the province. In that respect, it turned into something like a class reunion as those present had worked closely together and had many shared memories. They were bound by passion for an important cause — attaining better conditions for child safety and well-being.
The usual speeches on the program were forward-looking and not focused on the past. But to most attendees, it was not a time to listen to future plans but a time to greet former colleagues at a reception and by visiting among tables between food courses.
People were excited and happy to see each other. This was especially true for retirees. (As an aside, it was easy to identify the retirees as they were not checking blackberries and iPhones during the meal.)
Former colleagues greeted each other with genuine affection. No time was wasted bragging about career accomplishments. The people in attending this event already knew about each other’s professional achievements.
They may have worked for separate organizations across the province but they had worked for a common cause. They shared an identity that involved working to better the lives of children and families who suffered from severe abuse and/or neglect. Many had spent 30 – 40 years in these difficult roles.
As most of the people had become friends over the years this get-together was a time to check in on the personal side of life. Stories of how life has turned out since leaving work abounded and laughter filled the room. Memories were shared, there was opportunity to reflect on organizational and individual accomplishments.
Attending this event made me re-think my past strategy to avoid reunions. Just as there is value in observing important landmarks in a career — and in life, there is also value in staying in touch with people who have influenced your career — and your life.
Child welfare work is the kind of work that changes your life — forever. It injects itself into your thoughts about the human condition. It gives you membership in a special culture that is bound together by a passion for service. A unique identity develops bound by a passion to achieve social justice for disempowered children.
What a privilege to attend the celebration for an organization that has a history of 100 years of child welfare advocacy! But more important is the privilege of knowing so many dedicated people who have devoted their careers — and their life energy — to a significant cause.
I’m not sure whether I’ll attend other reunions or similar events as nostalgia is not for me. But I am happy that I made the extra effort to attend this one.