“Gentlemen, please be quiet!”
The roar of the room continued unabated.
“Gentlemen, please!” the President shouted again.
“Guys SHUT UP!” offered the much more forceful Vice President, who was blessed with a thunderous voice. The room finally settled down.
“Thanks Seth. Welcome guys to our annual Thanksgiving dinner. Rhonda did an absolutely wonderful job – let’s thank her.”
Rhonda answered the cheers and applause by standing up to take a showy bow. She knew how to handle these guys after several years in service to them.
The President continued: “Don’t start eating just yet. Before we do, let’s go around the room this year and each person can say something they’re thankful for.”
Moans and groans were accompanied by someone shouting “let’s impeach the president!”
The room cheered and a dinner roll found itself narrowly missing the President’s head. He laughed. “Hey – this is what my family does, and I claim each you as family. Even Landry.”
“F*#@ you” said Landry.
“Let’s start to my left.”
“I’m thankful for food. Can we please eat now?” the first brother quipped.
“Keep going,” said the President.
“I’m thankful for all you guys,” said the next brother. He was met with a chorus of sarcastic awws.
The next brother said “I’m thankful for Delta Zeta!” “Damn right!” shouted another.
And around the room they went, one after another, some comments serious but most were half-hearted and meant to show one’s wit in favor of one’s vulnerability.
And then it was the Senior’s turn. He was the only Senior to arrive tonight, and some of the youngest guys had only met him a few times.
“I guess I’m thankful for a lot,” he started. “But I’ll be clear tonight in saying that I’m thankful for this fraternity.”
“Okay let’s eat now!” interrupted the first brother.
“Hold on,” the Senior said. “I’m not finished.”
“I’m thankful for every moment – good, bad, or otherwise – spent in this fraternity so far. I’m thankful for every man seated around these tables tonight. I am thankful for the fun times, the laughter, the hijinks, the pranks, and more.”
He continued: “I am thankful in equal measure for the times that were uncomfortable, challenging, and miserably difficult. Maybe even moreso. I tend to think most of who I am was forged by the fire of hard times.”
The room had become very quiet.
“I am thankful for all of you that came to my grandpa’s funeral. You made that sad day exceptionally special.”
“I am thankful for Doug. I bet you a million dollars I would have never met a guy like Doug if not for this fraternity. And I’m thankful for Jeff. Those who know me know that Jeff and I have never gotten along. In fact, there are times we downright hated each other. We may never see eye-to-eye, but Jeff, I respect you and I am absolutely thankful for you.”
“I am thankful for all those who surround us and try to make us better. Our alumni board, our chapter advisor, Rhonda. They have made a choice to give a part of their lives away, so that our lives can be stronger. That’s selfless stuff guys. We owe them our best – and consider that every time you’re about to do something stupid.”
“Speaking of that, I’m thankful for surviving all of my stupid moments. I’m going to make sure the lessons I’ve learned are passed on to you.”
“I am thankful for Delta Zeta too. And every other sorority on this campus, for making us work at being gentlemen. Our future wives will appreciate it.”
“I am thankful for the courage I’ve seen in this fraternity over the years. The courage for Paul to take that step to leave the fraternity so that he could get his act together. The courage for Bryce to help Paul realize that. I’m thankful for Gavin’s courage in coming out. And I’m thankful for the courage all of you had in learning to first accept it, and now appreciate it.”
“I’m thankful that we’re all there for each other. I wonder if we’ll truly ever appreciate how special it was to have these connections during this time in our lives.”
“I’m thankful for that guy from the national office who was here last week. Yeah, okay, boo if you want, but think about his vocation right now. It’s to visit dopes like us, help us better understand the power of this thing we belong to, and ultimately help us live closer to the ideal. I’m thankful he came into our lives and I know you are too.”
“I’m thankful for our potential. I’ve decided that potential is like a wild bird that is hard to grab, and harder to hold. But I’ve seen us hold it. We’ve held it in those moments in which we stepped outside of ourselves to help a brother in need. We’ve held it when we’ve stared down the popular choice and went for the right one instead. We’ve held it when the moment stood larger than us, but we found a way to rise to it anyhow. But we’ve also let the wild bird go. Too often. But, in a way, I’m thankful for those moments too. Why make this whole thing easy?”
“I’ll say it again - I am thankful for this fraternity. I am thankful for each and every word of each and every oath I’ve ever said in its name.”
“I am thankful for the badge you allow me to wear, which is a privilege earned by faithfulness to our Ritual and creed.”
“I am thankful for the chance to sit here with my brothers a different man, a better man, than I was three years ago. And I promise to all of you, and to this fraternity, I will do all in my power in the life ahead of me…to make you thankful for me.”
The room was made silent by his words.
What couldn’t be heard, but could be seen if you were there, were small acts of men telling other men how much they were loved. One brother gripped the shoulder of another. A brother gave a sharp punch into the shoulder of the brother next to him. Another brother wiped away a tear before it could be seen.
The almost spiritual quiet was finally broken by that first brother, speaking a little more gently this time.
“Can we eat now?”
The President smiled wide.