I was a sorority girl. Since membership is for life I should say I AM a sorority girl. If you know me, that might be a difficult visual for you. I didn't fit the stereotype when I went to college. I was a socially awkward tom-boy athlete who felt like I was entirely too young, immature and inexperienced to be in the midst of those "women". If you were to analyze it today, I still don't fit the stereotype. I'm not fancy, wealthy, girly, dramatic, socially secure or beautiful by most standards. In my 29 years of membership I have learned that the stereotype only means something if you allow it to. The truth is, we were all insecure, questioning, searching, figuring out and maneuvering our way into adulthood as best we knew how. During that time, they extended to me the same thing I extended to them; friendship, acceptance and support.
I never felt as though I had to be anything other than what I was, while in the sorority. Yet if I wanted to make changes I didn't feel judged, discouraged or ostracized if it didn't look like what others were doing. We were all changing, growing, becoming different yet we were somehow doing it together. Differently together. Together differently. Friendship, acceptance and support became the cornerstone of my experience with a sorority. When I struggled with depression my Sophomore year in college I had a "sister" who would hold my hand while I cried myself to sleep many nights. She didn't understand but she remained. Friendship. Acceptance. Support. When I had no idea what to wear on a date, closets all over the house readily flew open with options. Friendship. Acceptance. Support. Those 4 years brought me more stability and security than that scared and insecure 17 year old who showed up on the first day possibly could have imagined. For 25 years friendship, acceptance and support has remained a cornerstone in those relationships.
When one of our "sisters" who had two young children was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer I saw an outpouring of friendship, acceptance and support that was astounding. She did treatments in Houston though she lived in Oklahoma. She wanted her husband to be able to stay with the kids to keep things as normal for them as possible. All of us had families, jobs, and/or other responsibilities but for the 6 weeks she lived in Houston she was never alone. Not once. She didn't travel alone, she didn't stay alone and she didn't do treatments alone. Not one single treatment did she do without support, friendship and acceptance. It was not exclusively "sisters" who did this but it never has been. Not even in college. There are always great efforts made to know and accept the other people in our "sisters" lives. Friendship. Acceptance. Support. It's much more inclusive than the stereotype would lead you to believe.
I've been given more than one job in my life because of a "sister". In order that I wouldn't have a lapse in my health insurance I actually had a sister create a job in her company so that I could get medical treatment. Long after it's fun and frequent to attend your friends weddings, at age 38 I had more than 30 "sisters" there to celebrate mine. 6 months later there were 17 of them at my father's funeral to support me in my grief. One year ago when my book, Letters To Love was published I had a "sister" at every single one of my book signings sitting with me from beginning to end and not once did I ask them to do so. These friends are present. On purpose. We have sat in hospital rooms, waiting rooms, courthouses, funeral homes, and therapy offices together. Not because we always agree with or understand but because we were friends offering acceptance and support. Not because it's easy but because we care. I am different because of these women but not because they needed me to be different for their stereotype. I'm different because that's what happens when you are loved and accepted.
So when I say I don't promote sororities, it's true, I don't. I promote friendships. Whether you find them on an athletic field, a dorm floor, a student organization, a church activity, a Bible study, a neighborhood or a work environment it doesn't matter. I promote acceptance and support. I value not giving up on people. I promote being committed especially when people are different than you are. I honor showing up for each other not because it's easy or convenient but because it makes a difference. I encourage the kind of relationships where you allow others to write on the pages of your life over and over and over again. I recognize that these kind of relationships take time, effort, intention, grace, patience and sacrifice. So I salute that very hot day in August of 1986 when I met "my sisters" and wouldn't trade being a sorority girl for anything. But what I cherish most is what they have taught me about friendship, acceptance and support everyday since that one.