Like many of you I am traveling soon to attend a much-delayed, (we tend to want to believe!) post-Covid family reunion. The mixture of trepidation about travel itself and the threat of Covid makes us quite vulnerable, indeed, but then there is the heart pull to see the children again and hopefully get some reassurance that reunions are still possible - and maybe even necessary. The Covid years have uprooted us from each other, especially at the convivial and intimate levels of eating, laughing and warmly sharing our stories. We also have missed recording in real time how the children have grown and how we have all aged as we have coped with these disruptive years.
The usual definition of a reunion is, of course, "a social gathering attended by members of a certain group of people who have not seen each other for some time.” These events loop us back into our past and may reestablish a course for the future as we encourage each other on. Reunions are opportunities to reminisce and recall our previous times together and to share our hopes and plans. They are especially poignant when families are together again, and whatever residual hurts there may be, mixed in with all the memories of the good times, we are grateful to be acknowledged and accepted again as part of a tribe where we can feel assured at some level that we will always belong.
But I am also deeply grateful for other reunions in my life these days as I assume is true for many of you. I know from reports from a good number other friends this summer that there have been a variety of reunions that have provided precious opportunities to recollect and renew the warp and woof of our life dramas, large and small, that define our collective lives. In my own sphere, our Quaker meeting has had to meet on Zoom for months now, and finally we are able to be together again (cautiously) in our familiar circle of friends. And for the past two years during Covid I have having a bi-weekly reunion with a group of my college classmates that reunites us after a period now well over fifty years. What fun it is to regale each other with now "well-enhanced" stories of those formative years of both our immaturity and our maturing. So I celebrate our tradition of our social reunions as I assume you are doing as well.
But there is also a secondary meaning of “reunion" that seems equally important at this time. “Reunion” can also mean “the act or process of being brought together again as a unified whole.” We are so aware of our divided nation these days as the subtext of almost any news story. The most egregious fault line for our disunity is the antagonisms fostered and fanned on social media, but as our social lives have become more individualized and separate, especially with Covid limiting our contact at work, commercial and school venues. We no longer seem to expect, or know how to create, e pluribus unum, the expectation that out of many we could be united as one, especially with those who are so regrettably separated from us for a variety of reasons.
The primary challenge of any “reunion,” though, is that we must first reckon with what level of “union” we had in the first place, and thus what are we are seeking to “re-unite.” In terms of our family reunions, we have the opportunity to acknowledge the care and sacrifices that have made our lives what they are even as we accept our family support shortcomings. Similarly the constituting documents of our country created the admirable basis for a democratic experiment with equality and unity as a founding ideal. We recognize now, however, the actual divisiveness those early documents created, most blatantly between white, land owning males and everyone else.
Covid has forced us to come further apart, at least temporarily. The experience has warned us that we cannot maintain our lives and our planet with sustained disunity and, in fact, we have learned how much we truly need each other, especially those precious “essential” workers. We need our reunions because they maintain our common story that is so vital.