Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Thank You and You're Welcome

She had taken these tree-lined sidewalks so many times over the last four years, and who knew when she would walk them again.  After all, she was already two hours into her new life as a college graduate.  She had asked her family to give her just an hour alone to wander the campus, wishing for a final chance to soak in the memories before her overstuffed car took her down the hill.  Away from here.

Her feet took her first to her freshman dorm.  She could almost feel the nervousness of four years ago return.  The dining hall where she spent most of her meals came next.  She smiled at the thought of the table in the northeast corner.  Room for eight, but they always found a way to squeeze in twelve at least. 

Her feet took her past the academic buildings where she earned cum laude grades.  She saw the fitness center whose beckoning she tried her best to answer.  Sometimes.  And then the hockey arena, the library, the auditorium where she saw the Dalai Lama, and even the bench where she liked to sit in between classes.

And then, her feet took her a little further.  She had one more place to see.  Upon arrival, she
looked up and saw the same Greek letters that dominated her T-shirt wardrobe.  And the house, which had been her home.

She was a girl who hardly ventured down the road while growing up, and going hours 
south to a new town and a whole new life was hard on her.  But by chance - or perhaps destiny - she found a sorority.  This sorority.

She closed her eyes and reflected on the days spent here.  The sorority gave her so much, 
starting with a language by which to measure a life well lived - it was the creed she couldn’t wait to recite at the start of every meeting.  It defined for her a set of values which were eternally stored in her heart.

The sorority gave her laughter.  Oh, so much laughter. 

It gave her sisters.  Some who would be lifelong friends, and some who would probably just make her smile whenever she pulled out the old composite picture.  Sisters all the same.  Even some she didn’t like too much, but who still taught her things.   

As she stared at the letters on the outside of the house, she had a humble feeling.  What a blessed privilege it was, to not only be a college graduate, but to have taken the ride in a vehicle such as this.  To have had experiences that gave her confidence, took away her insecurities, and bolstered her self-esteem.  To be given a chance to lead.  To follow.  To work alongside so many other wonderful people.  To be something more.

Her feet had taken her here so that she could say two simple words.  Two words that signify a college life well lived.  She had said them to professors, advisors, and peers.  And now she stared at this entity that she had wrapped her college life around, and was moved to say those words out loud.  She glanced up, with a knowing smile, and said:

“Thank you.”

It was time to go.  As she started to walk away, and her reflections continued, a sense of accomplishment washed over her.  She remembered her sorority years for all the gifts that she received, but her mind also turned to all the things she gave in return. 

She remembered the long nights during recruitment, when heated arguments turned to hugs and laughter. 

She couldn’t begin to count the number of minutes spent consoling a sister, cheering a sister on, holding a sister’s hand, or just listening to a sister.  Listening, and knowing there was nothing she could say.  Those moments of silence between sisters - wow - it’s amazing how unforgettable they are.

She remembered the sweat.  She showed up to service projects early, and stayed late.  When others complained about peeling paint on the house, she was busy borrowing a neighbor’s ladder.  She found that tremendous sweet spot when something you love collides with something you want to work for. 

She remembered the stress of being a chapter officer - of learning the powerful lesson that being a best friend has as much to do with accountability as anything.  She was cursed and criticized.  There were many times when she needed to close a door and cry, before she walked through another one to lead. 

There were sacrifices; ones that she knows will seem minor to her someday, but at the time felt quite significant.  She skipped a spring break trip in order to attend a leadership conference.  She had to turn down many nights on the town so that she could save money for dues.  She decided to stay in the house her Senior year instead of moving into an apartment, so that she could provide leadership and help the chapter’s budget. 

And then there was the incident.  She’s still not quite sure how she held it together.  She had to decide how much this place truly meant to her; how much did she really have to give.  It would have been so easy to walk away.  But she didn’t.  And the chapter stands as tall today as ever.

She knew her journey wasn’t over - that to be a sorority alumna didn’t mean she was done.  But, the door was certainly closing on her undergraduate era.

There were countless reasons to say thank you to the sorority.  But there were also countless reasons to have pride in the amount of effort it took to keep this place moving.  There were both euphoria and exhaustion in those walls. 

And so, she sprung around and looked back up the street at the house.  In addition to thank you, she had one more thing to say.  She cupped her hands around her mouth, and with a smile and a tear, shouted:

“You’re welcome!”

Now, it was time to go.





[Congratulations to those graduating this year, and especially to those who received and gave as much as they could, so that they could proudly say both thank you and you're welcome.]  



11 comments:

  1. I felt like I was reading my own diary

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  2. This is a great post! I agree with Sharli... so relate-able.

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  3. This was such a blessing to read, I'm so glad I had a sister to forward this to me. <3 OTB proud to be an Alpha Alumna

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  4. I just graduated yesterday and am now an alumna of Alpha Chi Omega. This post sums everything that I have been trying to put into words for the past couple of days! Beautiful!

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  5. Sarah L. University of Louisiana at Lafayette Greek CommunityOctober 31, 2012 at 3:06 PM

    This was a beautifully written article. I think this is the feeling many people feel when thinking about time spent and given in their greek organization. I know my organization has given me so many opportunities and memories I never would have had without it. I also hope in the future I will be able to keep giving to the sorority, in order for it to keep growing strongly. Greek life is something that can hardly be put into words, but you did a great job doing so here!

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  6. This was incredible. Made me cry. I saved the link so that hopefully, when it comes time for me to say "thank you" and
    "you're welcome" to my organization, I'll be able to find it and reread it.

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  7. My little sent this to me last year when I graduated, I saved the link and look at this every so often. I get chills every time I read this because it is so well thought out and describes the journey every sorority woman experiences.

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  8. Even though this was directed towards Sorority women, I really appreciated this post. I've only just finished my sophomore year at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, but I'm looking forward to what my future in the Greek has in store for me as well as the ways I can show my Fraternity my dedication. It is always best to remember that you get out what you put it!

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  9. What a powerful meditation on moving on and letting go without wallowing in sentimentality - breathtaking and profound. Thank YOU.

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