Back when I was in college, I cringed at the idea of sharing my sorority experience with other friends. My sorority was this precious treasure that I had found and longed to keep to myself. My high school friends had been a part of organizations like band, dance, and varsity sports teams. They had held leadership positions like student body president and editor in chief of the school yearbook. They were accepted-even received scholarships- to the best universities in the state, national military academies, and acclaimed film schools. They were all doing so many amazing things. Each of them just seemed to have a place where they belonged. Since I had been yanked in and out of school throughout those years, dealing with one medical crisis after another, I never felt like I had something like that. Something to call mine. That is, not until I received that bid from Delta Delta Delta. That little white invitation to become a part of a sisterhood carried with it a promise to finally have an experience that belonged to me.
Ironically, this experience that was supposed to be all about “me” never was. I learned that quickly. I stepped into leadership roles I never thought I’d have and learned how to serve people in ways I never knew I could. I learned that “belonging” didn’t mean anything in comparison to making others feel as though they belonged. And because of that, I made memories I’ll never forget. I formed friendships that will last the rest of my life.
I love how the Lord always allows things to come full circle. Not a year after I shared all of this “senior advice,” handed down every t-shirt and canvas I’d ever crafted, and graduated college did I have the opportunity to put my money where my mouth was and share my sorority experience with someone I loved.
My little cousin, who is 5 years younger than I, became a freshman at my alma mater and decided to go through sorority recruitment. I never pressured her to join my Tri Delta chapter, but I submitted a letter of recommendation to the organization’s leaders just in case. Each night, I waited by the phone for her to call, silently hoping she had fallen in love with the organization that I once had fallen in love with. On the last night of the recruitment week, I called the chapter President and requested a personal phone call as soon as she received the finalized list of new members. My heart pounded with impatience and enthusiasm. I needed to know if my cousin’s name was on it. I couldn’t wait to know whether I’d have the opportunity to share the sisterhood I had found with someone I loved so much.
That enthusiasm was only magnified as I stood, later the next day, on the university lawn with my collegiate chapter waiting for the moment I’d welcome my cousin to her new home as a Delta pearl. And now, it’s reflected each time her name flashes across my caller ID. I love to hear her stories, answer her questions, and encourage her to get involved.
Her phone calls bring me back to where I was during those college years. They remind me of times when I didn’t know the things I know now, and give me a renewed appreciation for what I experienced in that sorority. They remind me to be intentional in stretching my hand back and offering help to those who have come along after me.
Where there is no guidance the people fall, But in abundance of counselors there is victory. -Psalm 11:14
Tonight, her phone call challenges me to share the revelations I have had in the 2 years since graduating with my sisters still in college:
Your roommate hoping to receive a bid to your same sorority, or the Panhellenic sister asking about your ideas for the next philanthropy event has no intention to outshine you. She’s looking for an opportunity to share with you the very things that are important to you. Let her in. It will be a better experience because she was a part of it.
The way that a sorority is structured is intended to represent a business setting. In the professional world, you don’t get a say in who you work with. You can’t refuse to help someone (or refuse someone’s help) simply because their vision for the event doesn’t match your own. Use the opportunities that arise in Tri Delta to learn how to come together with people you share nothing in common with. The best part will be when a friendship forms with the last person you ever expected one to. Also, when you see your ideas merge to create an event that not only appeals to all of your wildly different sisters but benefits the school community at large.
College is seriously crazy. I’m working a 40 hour a week job now, taking things home after work and on the weekends, and still I’ll confess that college is more exhausting than a professional career. You’re balancing your own class schedule, work schedule, and personal commitments on top of Tri Delta events and other extracurricular involvement. There’s just no time to do it all. Be realistic about what you can take on and don’t feel guilty declining any requests after that. Or, if your struggle with these commitments is of a different nature, give your sisters a chance to shine too. A sisterhood can’t exist with only a single sister doing it all. When you surrender control, you might be surprised by the gifts some are just waiting for an invitation to utilize.
(See my post: Unique Callings Still Call For Unity)
When you do make a commitment, honor it. A sorority is made up of so many wonderfully unique college women, each with their own interests and abilities. Just imagine if each would own the one or two things they really shine in. That diversity would be so apparent and appreciated.
Sadly, what I’ve seen happen a lot of the time is a single group of girls taking on more than they ever should have been responsible for, then falling under the weight of it all. Those girls don’t get to enjoy the events they’ve organized because they’re so relieved that they’re almost over. Then, the rest of the organization complains because the events are not what they expected. Rather than letting someone else do all the work, take one or two seemingly small responsibilities and look at them as seeds you’ve been entrusted with. They have the potential to grow into something big with your care. Focus on nurturing those.
Take everything you’ve learned about loving others within Tri Delta and live your life with the same perspective. This organization teaches you to love others so well. Just as you share those Miss FGCU contestants’ photos like wildfire across Facebook, share encouragement. Be as willing to make sacrifices for others as when you take a case of sodas from the Membership Development Chair knowing she’s on her third trip, trying to set up for your sisterhood retreat. Bless others in the same way you blessed your Little with homemade goodies, handmade gifts, and vulnerable sentiments during Clue Week. Honor your friends in the same way your Grandbig honored you as she passed down the lavalier from her bid day in her senior will. And, celebrate meeting others the very same way you were welcomed home on bid day, with loud enthusiasm and lots of hugs.
Yes, the Lord always brings things full-circle if we will slow down enough to listen and notice. I believe He’s inviting you into the opportunity to do the same now. This week, won’t you try reaching out to someone who’s walking through an experience you’ve once walked through? Whether it be an exciting or challenging one, I urge you to stretch your hand back and just allow them to grab hold. You can do that literally. I’ve held a friend’s hand as she walked through something heartbreaking. Or-if you’re not such a touchy person- call them, send them an email or a text message, leave a comment on this thread and invite them by.
This charge to reach back for others is not just written for my sorority sisters, either. Rather, it is written for each of my sisters in this crazy life. Everyone who has ever come out of an experience knowing how much you needed someone to hold onto through it. Everyone going through something and desperately needing a hand to grab hold of.
That might mean the hand of someone who can teach you how to hit the ground running at your new, exciting but fast-paced job. It might mean the hand of someone who has overcome a medical issue and every scary procedure between diagnosis and remission. It might mean the hand of someone who helps you understand how to grieve the loss of a family member without withdrawing from others you love, someone who has learned to balance personal relationships with overwhelming “to do” lists, or someone who simply knows how to plan an event for a crowd of more than 200.
No matter which roads we have walked, if we will stop for a moment- with a hand stretched back- we will always find someone eager to grab hold.
*A special thank you to my sweet cousin, Kiera, who has never hesitated to share parts of her life with me. I love her updates on all Tri Delta, college, love, and family matters!
*Another shout out to my sorority sister, Melissa. I thought about you quite frequently as I wrote this post. Although we didn’t know one another well in college, I appreciate that it didn’t keep you from stretching a hand back to a new law enforcement wife, so much in need of prayer. You even shared with me devotionals for women who have been called to back men in blue. You are a treasure!