I know, I know, you must have fallen out of your chair at that sentence, so I'll give you a minute to compose yourself.
It was my Freshman year of College. I had never really thought about fraternities or joining one, I thought it certainly wasn't for me. At my Freshman orientation I found out about them and found out about all the wonderful opportunities they could afford me. I though well, maybe there is something to it. I carefully began investigating the available fraternities, I checked their pages, scoured for photos, and basically saw what kind of air they gave off. Did they seem aggressive? Douchy? Friendly? Kind? I rushed and only went to one fraternity's events, Phi Kappa Tau.
They seemed like good guys, they had a good mixture of folks. Some were geeky like myself, some were conservative, some were gay, some were liberal, but none of them were 'bros'. I was enthralled when I received a bid from them.
|Two other young men also received bids|
Bid day was interesting, it was surprising to see how many other folks received bids from the different fraternities and how diverse they were. There were some guys who were clearly destined to become the bro-esque guys that swim in alcohol and party all the time. There were other guys who looked like skater punks. There were exceptionally flamboyant men, there were exceptionally manly men. Men of every stripe, creed, race, and orientation were there to receive bids that morning. Going up on stage and accepting the bid was kind of exhilarating to be honest.
Then came the pinning. Being pinned was. . .definitely an experience. It was the first act of initiation into the group when I became recognized as an associate member (and thus not fully initiated.), Three other men were pinned with me (one was picked up shortly after the formal pledge period). I wore that pin with pride. I was proud to be a part of the group, proud of what we were doing and what we would do. I saw success in our future. You see, at that time we were what is known as a 'colony' meaning we didn't have a charter yet but were working towards getting one. At the time of the pinning I was convinced we'd have one very soon.
Homecoming rolled around shortly after I got pinned and I got to experience the pleasure of pomping a float. In case you don't know, pomping is an insanely tedious and repetitive task that will eventually result in you getting pomping tissue stuck to your jeans due to the spray on glue. It was a lot of work, and I didn't even do a ton of pomping when compared to the lovely ladies of Kappa Kappa Gamma (I tell you, they wanted to WIN that float contest.) I even got to ride on the float and wave to little kids, make eagle shouts. It was a great deal of fun.
Eventually though, some conflicts with other people and disagreements with where some of the leadership was going led me to drop. To this day I'm not entirely sure if that was the right decision on my part. I had a lot of fun with these guys though, and being in a fraternity gave me some experiences and some particular perspectives.
There are a few things I learned from this.
The first one is that organization is not a bad thing nor is leadership. Sure, when you have this stuff you have a lot of petty politics that occurs and a bit of tiara chasing occurs but you also are able to get more work done than an individual person. We volunteered and cleaned up parks, staffed SUSAN G KOMEN events and worked at a charity haunted house and in each one of these things our group did more work than an individual could do by themselves. We were able to do this through communication and organization, and we had people volunteer that normally wouldn't to help make the group look better.
You also look out for each other and support each other. When I and another member where in a terrible car wreck (not our fault. Was rainy and a guy smashed into us) they came and got us from the hospital (luckily no life threatening injuries for this, but the car was totaled). This was in the wee hours of the morning, after they got us they took us out to eat. Like any good community of folks they supported us when we were at a low spot and did so with no hesitation. Likewise, the 'Greek' community supported each other in some small way, be it by going to each others events or donating to each others philanthropies. We competed with one another but we also helped each other succeed.
It also taught me that the stereotypes were not true except for small populations and that stomping out the stereotypes were essential and vital when we encountered them. One non-Greek thinking that all Greeks were alcoholics was harmful not only to my fraternity but to every fraternity, and when someone would complain about Greeks and then cite a specific fraternity some defense of the members may have been in order. Or maybe just the assertion and reassurance that all fraternity men were not like that.
There is strength in numbers. There is no doubt about that. There is a reason that despite all the bad press, the bad media, and the fuck-ups that fraternities around the nation have made they still continue to thrive. It is because they stick together. Regardless of what council they belonged to or what fraternity they were in they didn't allow themselves to be divided and conquered.
Out of all the lessons I learned, strength in numbers is the most critical lesson of all. Sannion recently wrote a post called Polytheism Without Borders in which he issued a call to Polytheists of all stripes and cultures to be stand and counted and to help one another. To band together and be strong and support one another. With that notion in mind, I hafta ask.
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I am here to serve.