by Tyler Blaker
I’d like to share a story with you…
It’s the beginning of my sophomore year and classes start tomorrow. I’d like to hang out with some brothers on syllabus eve, and maybe go get a bite to eat. I go through the list of brothers I would want to hang out with and the ones I feel comfortable enough talking to. Twenty minutes pass and it dawns on me. Since last year’s seniors graduated, I don’t feel like I really know anyone. What kind of brotherhood is this? Where are these lifelong connections I’m supposed to be making? I wish more of the guys would just invite me to stuff. Well, I guess it’s another night with Brother Ramen and Brother Netflix.
A lot of our brothers have similar stories, albeit more realistic and less dramatic than this. The end result is the same. A brother who loves his fraternity, a brother who loves his values, and a brother who doesn’t feel connected to his fraternity and his brothers. He feels isolated and alone amongst a sea of close strangers. So what does he do? He leaves. He renounces the fraternity, and leaves bitter and hurt.
So, what’s up with that? If we swear by this lifelong brotherhood that fraternity gives us, then why are our brothers leaving? It’s because they didn’t make enough meaningful connections to stay. Just because you’ve joined a fraternity, you’re not automatically going to receive the gift of brotherhood. It’s not something that is guaranteed the moment you adorn your mystical letters. Brotherhood, like all of the relationships we want in life, takes a special combination of time and effort.
What a crappy fact to come to terms with. Like bro, if you want a better brotherhood, like, just try harder. Happily, that is not exactly what I mean, but it’s a start. I also don’t mean we should throw three to four “brotherhood events” where we just eat wings and watch special sporting events. That junk doesn’t work to recruit our members, so why would we think it would keep members in our organizations and foster deep, meaningful relationships?
I think what we need are continuous little interactions over a long period of time. Everyone starts as strangers. It’s only through brief moments of continuous interactions that we move from strangers to friends, and friends to brothers. Fraternity provides us an incubator to grow those friendships and brotherhoods through value and passion focused continuous moments. Now let me be clear. These interactions should at least be somewhat positive and voluntary. I say this because the mandatory study hours and mandatory chapter meetings and mandatory philanthropy hours are not what I mean by continuous little interactions over a period of time. These gatherings could be opportunities to build brotherhood, but often are not.
So what then do these interactions look like? It all has to do with raccoons and shower lines. So my actual sophomore year I was concerned about making friends and if this thing called brotherhood could be attained. My fraternity was temporarily not living in the chapter house and was living in a much smaller house on campus. Morale was uncertain and I was living in a single. Without the luxuries of a roommate and really knowing most of my brothers well, the path to brotherhood seemed a daunting one. The house situation really didn’t help things, or so I thought. There were colonies of raccoons living in the ceiling tiles and only two showers for all of us to share. People often had to wait in line or shuffle about the house waiting to use the bathroom.
My room was on the path to the bathroom, and as time progressed people would stop by and talk to me while they passed through or waited to use the facilities. This soon became the norm in the house and brothers would make the loop around to each room to make small talk.
At the same time there was only one entrance to the house that forced you to pass by the lobby. A similar phenomenon occurred, and people felt compelled to stop in the lobby and see what people were doing. Through sheer circumstance (or the omniscience of the house itself), the foundation for a brotherhood was forming. I talked to brothers from all walks of life and found connections and commonalities I never would have known to look for. Who knew that a fraternity that drew us all together over common values and passions would draw its members toward each other as well? Little by little, a brotherhood was born.
A year and a half later we returned to the chapter house proper. Though we went on to more showers and left our raccoon neighbors behind, I was sad to leave the temporary house. This place taught us a valuable lesson on how to start and build relationships and develop a brotherhood through continuous little interactions.
Will these interactions help your brotherhood? Will they stop members from leaving? I cannot say for sure, but I think it helped us and has proven true for all of the relationships in my life. So the next time you, Brother Ramen, and Brother Netflix hang out – maybe walk around the house and see if your brothers want to start a chain of continuous little interactions.