I met Karen in first grade, and she quickly became my best friend. I remember being so excited every time we got the chance to play together, and I remember how much I hated it when one of us had to go home. I wanted Karen to be a part of everything I did: swimming, dancing, playing tag and hide-and-go-seek. At times when we weren’t allowed to play together, it though the world was about to end. It seemed as if I would we never be able to play Barbies again! When I went off to college and joined a sorority, I felt the same way about my new sisters. New member education was new, exciting, and always fun! I attended every single activity and wanted to be on every possible committee. I signed up for everything, and if I was unable to attend, it felt as if my world had ended. Just like my friendship with Karen, I was thrilled about becoming involved with a group of sisters that would be a major part of my life forever.
It wasn’t always so great, though. There were times during the new member period when active members were noticeably absent. All the new members were there, along with a majority of the chapter, but a few sisters decided to just not show up. I was confused, upset and let down by those sisters who didn’t feel like it was important to be around. To many women in my new member class, it felt as if the active members weren’t invested our membership, and like they didn’t really care about being part of the sisterhood with us.
I wonder what would have happened if, at some point during our budding friendship, Karen failed to show up. Or if she cancelled. Or if she skipped out on me because she had something ‘more important’ to do. Or if she sent me over to another friend’s house to play with them instead. How would that have changed our friendship? I imagine I would have been pretty hurt. I would have felt like our friendship didn’t mean much to her. We definitely wouldn’t be the friends we are today. It is because Karen constantly showed up for me that our friendship became such an important part of my life.
There are times in fraternity/sorority life when we get busy, tired, stressed out, or behind on school work. But just like the beginning of my friendship with Karen, if you don’t commit to showing up for your new sisters or brothers, it gives the impression that you don’t care. That their friendship isn’t important to you. That their excitement is unfounded. Or that you don’t share their same passion for the sorority or fraternity.
During the new member period, it’s critical that we each fulfill our commitment to show up, support our sisters or brothers and role model what it means to be an active member. It doesn’t have to be hard: Invite a new member to attend a campus event with you. Offer her / him a ride to the chapter meeting, or show up early to say hello to the new members before their meeting begins. If new members are going to an event, go with them (new members should NEVER out number you at an event!). Give new members a taste of the Greek community by taking them and introducing them to other fraternity/sorority events. By investing the time into these new relationships, you’re not only role modeling leadership, you’re showing up when it counts and building a lifelong friendship.
Those sorority sisters who were always there to support me are the ones that kept me involved and excited about my membership. During new member education strive to be like Karen and like these women, who always showed up, and who added so much to my life.