“Rent a Friend, Join a Frat”
That is the wording on my husband’s favorite college t-shirt. And for many people that know me today, they have a hard time placing me in the context of southern sorority girl. Say what you will about the in’s and out’s of greek life, in this season, it was a great decision. In the fall of 1994, I returned for my sophomore year with excitement – an off campus apartment and the goal of wearing a jersey. Yes, my goals were high…sweat in pantyhose and polyester all for the sake of being a part.
Fall classes started and in the same breath rush parties did, as well. Fall rush is much less chaotic, but the day I received the bid to join my sorority I was elated. I knew a few initiated girls already, and I was beside myself to find out that my dear friend from last year, you know the pretty blonde one, had received one as well. Pictures tell the story of the smiles, but the I can still remember what I wore to acceptance night. There, among girls that came from a variety of cities and states with backgrounds just as varied, we found a common bond in silly rush songs and service hours and pledge meetings.
In a group of 120 women, there is always entertainment. Strong leaders and creative minds alike, I was taken by the women and their take-charge, can-do attitudes. Immediately, I found connection with a group of juniors and seniors that were by name and work ethic the leaders. I can remember watching them as they prepared for events and training sessions. They had such poise and when they spoke, people listened. The respect was immediate and commanding. But the best part was the willingness to do the hard work of leadership.
There are those that enjoy the title. And then there are those that by DNA are wired to jump in the middle of chaos and bring order and structure. There were two women in particular that taught me what it meant to lead. I can remember as I sat in our pledge meetings that the woman charged with bringing order to our nonsense was one of a kind. The title for the upper-class woman that walks you through this process is a Pledge Educator. Mine was a natural born leader. She was funny and well spoken. She moved with authority and yet was approachable and wanted to be your friend. She always had a smile, unless you were acting a fool and I loved her even more for that.
The second model of leadership was the woman that became our president the next semester and was preparing the chapter for rush that spring. She was smart and beautiful. While she was so friendly, she had a mode of operation that caused you to think twice before questioning her decisions. Not because of a perceived power trip, but because you trusted that she was leading you in the right direction. She never raised her voice and yet rarely was she questioned. She was one of those people that you just want to be on a team with because you know you will be better because of it. I didn’t know it at the time, but she would become a dear friend, a wise counsel and my big sister.
Sure, you can say that sorority life is “not real” and unnecessary. There are parts of it that make me cringe to think of the ways that my superficiality prevailed. What I can tell you about this season of my life in spite of the hiccups, is that in these years a gift for leadership was born. Deep in my spirit, I came to believe that I was capable and had gifts to offer the world. And then, best of all, I was empowered to lead and people believed in me. Only the best leaders can inspire others to do the same.