A recent spontaneous trip to our nation’s capital completely changed my outlook on fraternities and sororities.
Many non-Greek students would argue that people join these organizations to assure themselves that they will have a place to drink and socialize on the weekends. I have learned that the benefits of belonging to a brotherhood are far greater than parties.
Friday night, I was asked by Charles Lear, a brother of mine, to accompany him to a prestigious fraternity event because our other delegate had a change in his work schedule. The invitation made me feel like a balloon filling with enthusiasm – until Lear quickly took out his pin and explained that we would need to embark on a six-hour drive in the morning.
I was faced with a tough decision and little time to mull it over. I decided to capture the moment and go along for the ride.
We were bestowed the honor of attending the Alpha Phi Delta Centennial Gala in Washington, D.C., hosted at the Mayflower Hotel Saturday. Upon arrival, Lear and I felt underdressed and unsure of how we would fit in.
We lurked around the elegant dining hall with hope that we would find two open seats for dinner. We ended up sitting with three brothers – who started a chapter at what was then known as Eastern College in 1985 – and their wives. It was a great experience to hear tales about their growing pains and college days over a mouth-watering steak entrée.
They enjoyed telling old war stories, but they were more interested in what we were doing with our lives.
Before dessert was served, I felt a connection with everyone at the table. It was remarkable that these people were strangers, yet we shared a common bond.
As dinner concluded I began to socialize with members of all ages. I loved that all of the 425 brothers in attendance were friends with each other before even shaking hands.
We all came from different parts of the country for one reason: to celebrate 100 years of brotherhood, and remember all of the members who trampled the trail for us.
My stay in the capital city was capped by a night on the town with a group of about 60 brothers. Saturday was filled with moments that will I cherish for a lifetime.
Greek life is commonly viewed in a negative light and some of the criticism is justifiable. You will hear that these organizations force their members to pay for their friends and everyone in the organization is just worried about getting drunk.
Fraternities and sororities are like most opportunities in life – the more you put into them, the more you will get out.
I urge all college students to find a group that shares their beliefs and become a part of it. For me, that was Greek life, but that could be different for you.
The sensation of understanding that you are a part of something much larger than yourself is refreshing. My trip ended with another six-hour voyage back to Erie, but my appreciation for all of the brothers who came before me will never end.
The next time you are faced with a tough decision – I challenge you – dive in head first and make the six-hour drive. You never know when one impromptu journey will change your life and outlook.