Now that I’m in the habit of writing a weekly blog, I am always on alert each week for events or something someone might say to me that sparks an idea I can use in my writing. Some weeks are easier than others when it comes to putting pen to paper; fortunately, this week was a breeze!
I took a fantastic stroll down memory lane this past Friday evening at a celebration of my Sigma Sigma sorority at Hope College. It was an amazing evening spent with approximately 125 women coming together to celebrate our 110-year anniversary. Wow—a group of women who have remained on the same track for that many years is very impressive!
Fraternities and sororities at Hope College are a bit different from other universities because they are not part of a national group—they are only at Hope College. In a sense, belonging to one of these groups is like joining a club or sports team at school and hanging out with friends who share your same interests. Truthfully, that is what most fraternities and sororities are all about. Unfortunately, movies often make sorority members seem like the “mean girls.” That may be true for a very small number across the country, but most take part in fundraising, community service, and simply bonding as a group.
At our 110-year reunion last weekend, the current actives put together a fun evening for their older Sigma Sigma sisters. The organizers of the event contacted three members who had graduated and asked each of them to speak about a different part of the Sigma Sigma creed. The speakers were also asked to describe the role the sorority had played in their life. Each presenter’s story was unique, and I thoroughly enjoyed what they had to say.
The first alumnus was in her late sixties and addressed the “Beauty of Character” in the creed. This woman was originally from Brooklyn, NY, and she was beautiful, spunky, and surprisingly soft spoken. She hinted that many of her life decisions came from the guidance she received from her sorority sisters at Hope College 50 years ago. One point she discussed that really struck me was the fact that she is nearing the end of her journey while all the Sigma Sigma actives are just beginning theirs. She didn’t mean to sound morbid at all. She explained that she was just so happy with how her life had evolved and how instrumental many of her sorority sisters had been in shaping it. I also found it very interesting how she credited some of these same women with making Holland, Michigan, what it is today. Many of you may not know that Holland was voted one of the “Happiest Places in the U.S.” by Good Morning America in 2010. I can tell you it sure has come a long way since I was at Hope College!
The next alumnus to speak to our group was in her late forties (just like me), and, of course, she is one of my forever BFFs! She spoke about our “Strength of Purpose” in the creed, and described how she was very unsure of herself when she was a teenager. However, during her college years at Hope, she found strength in her sorority sisters, and these women helped her become much more confident. They made her realize she had nothing to lose and everything to gain by developing a “spine of steel” as Jim Harbaugh would say. What many people don’t realize is that this confidence was learned from a group of young women ranging in age from 18 to 22. They gave her a built-in support system all through college and the rest of her life—during both good and bad times!
Of course, the final alumnus to stand up in front of the crowd was in her late twenties, and she was adorable! She discussed the “Simplicity of Manner” in the creed and told how her journey is just beginning. She mentioned how her sorority sisters have been with her during the times when she has struggled, both in college and since she has been out in the real world. They have always been there with a listening ear to offer support and guidance as she waded into the waters of her life. As I looked around at her table of women who were all in their twenties, I had to smile when I thought of all the great things they would experience as they aged (and became closer to my age)! I know that whatever life throws their way—marriage, kids, divorce, sick parents—they will be able to handle all of it, thanks to the lessons they have learned from their Sigma Sigma sisters.
The evening ended with a presentation from a current active who is a senior at Hope. She admitted to being a little scared to venture out and start the next chapter of her life—away from the safety net of college. But, she also felt confident that her experiences with Sigma Sigma would help her navigate the road ahead. As she spoke of preparing for life in the corporate world, I wanted to tell her that the pledging events she encountered with Sigma Sigma had more than prepared her for what she would experience in the future. That “mean” pledge master who was tough on the pledges might be similar to a boss who wants to see if she has what it takes to be a strong employee. Or, that girl in her pledge class who didn’t pull her weight might be like a coworker who slacks off on a big project as the deadline approaches quickly. Fortunately, this Sigma Sigma graduate will have what it takes to finish the project and impress her boss with her strong work ethic.
I also wanted to tell this young girl about another girl who had entered Hope College many years ago on probation because she didn’t have stellar grades coming from high school. I wanted her to know that life turned out just fine for this young woman who went on to start her own blueberry business in a small midwestern town. And, when these two women see each other at a Sigma Sigma reunion a few years down the road, they can both talk about the strength, character, and help they received from all their Sigma Sigma sisters along the way!
On a final note, nothing warmed my heart more than to see that a few of the actives at the reunion Friday night were Grand Haven girls—daughters of alumni who attended during my years at Hope!
Remember, girls, you can’t be a Sigma Sigma unless you’re a peach—all warm and fuzzy. I loved the candle I received as a gift at the reunion, and I think there just might be another entrepreneur coming from Sigma Sigma in the near future!