Sometimes it’s fun to ‘play barefoot’ in church

Published 8:28 am Wednesday, July 18, 2012

I made it to church this past Sunday, barely 20 minutes before the service was to begin. I quickly met with the pianist and choir director, to see what was in the program. It was only when I started putting on my robe that I realized I was not wearing any socks! For the first time in more than 30 years, I played the organ pedals in church with my bare feet.

To be honest, it felt great, although I was overly conscious about it the entire service. I was certain that someone would point it out to the entire congregation if I was discovered. I would either be ribbed by the men or the topic of discussion at the next women’s circle.

It felt great! With nothing between my feet and the pedals of the organ, there was no excuse to make a mistake.

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As a kid, I loved going barefoot. It felt great in the grass. It felt great between my toes in the sand at Compass Lake. It still does. It takes me back to my youth.

The whole reason I was barefoot in the first place was because of another event that took me back to my youth. Mary Lou and I celebrated our 40th high school reunion this past weekend in Dothan.

Finally arriving back at our hotel on Saturday night after the festivities, at something like 2:30 a.m., we were so rushed in making it back to church the next morning that we didn’t have time to go by our home and put on “church clothes.”

Somehow it felt right being barefoot in church. I wasn’t being disrespectful; I was still celebrating one of the best times of my life.

Seriously, we all worry about meeting old friends we haven’t seen in years. Between Dothan High School and Houston Academy, there were more than 600 in our class. You almost certainly did not know them all while you were there.

More than 180 of my classmates made the journey to the Dothan Country Club on Friday and Saturday night. What a time we had!

I sometimes think my memory is fading. However, on this particular weekend it came back with every old friend I met. Not just their name, but tidbits of our time together. Obscure things like their home street address or the name of their dog. I guess our brains have a huge capacity to store useless facts.

I laughed and grinned and talked with everyone there. I didn’t sit down, for fear of missing someone in the huge crowd. We had spread so far over the years that it was hard to grasp all the updated information that was coming my way.

Despite how our looks, hair and body shape may have changed, it was the inner part of my friends that I remembered. That particular laugh, or voice, or sarcasm had not disappeared. The dimples, smiles, and mannerisms were all the same …

How some have blossomed! People who were shy became confident and successful. People who struggled in school found their niche later in life. It was a kaleidoscope of hundreds of friends that went out into the world and came back four decades later to share their story.

I have wondered why this was such a successful reunion. I think it is because we have all now faced life and all its challenges. We have all had our ups and downs. Tragedy and glory have been a part of everyone’s life. The things that might have separated us in high school no longer matter. We are all survivors.

We didn’t talk so much about the past as we did about where we are now. After four decades, we all had stories worthy of hearing. We didn’t judge each other any more. We simply embraced the fact that we came from the same place in a very difficult time, and lived to tell about it 40 years later. There was not a single person there that I didn’t enjoy talking to. So much so that my voice was nearly gone by the time I left.

There were 40 in the class that have passed away. There was an amazing tribute to them, their high school pictures slowly moving across the screen. You could hear the audible gasps as someone learned for the first time of the passing of one of their high school friends.

There was music. Unbelievable music made by our own classmates. As I remember, they were talented back then and they are even better now. What a musically gifted class we had.

The awards ranged from the furthest distance traveled (more than 3,000 miles), to the most husbands (the Elizabeth Taylor Award).   Everyone howled in laughter as the winners were announced.

There aren’t many times when such a large group of people are collectively having such a good time. The atmosphere was filled with happiness, joy and cheer. There didn’t seem to be anyone that wasn’t having a good time, except perhaps for a very few spouses that were not part of the Class of 1972.

In some ways we were back in that carefree time in our lives when we would go barefoot. This weekend there was sand between our toes again and it felt great.

Dan Ponder can be reached at