Coming into this trip I had absolutely no idea what I was getting myself into. Sure, I knew we would be doing something to help with the devastation caused by the tornado with some physical labor, but I had no idea that spending a few days serving the Tuscaloosa community could teach me so much about what it means to be Greek.
I have been lucky enough to have attended Pi Kapp College, my fraternity’s leadership institute, as well as UIFI & AFLV LeaderShape, so I am strong believer in Greeks having a common purpose, but no experience I have ever had before has better answered the question, “What is our common purpose?”
At the beginning of the day we arrived at the Tuscaloosa Area Volunteer Reception Center to report for duty. It was an amazing sight, 21 college students up and ready to work, all before 8:00 a.m. during winter break. I was extremely excited to work with a group that I already have become extremely close with.
Right before breaking for lunch, I came across several pictures and award certificates in the house we were working on. The situation started to feel extremely real, having names and faces paired with the destroyed house. Observing the damage on all four lots we cleared today, I knew why we were in Tuscaloosa helping, but I still didn’t see the bigger picture.
Around 3:00, my excitement and passion turned into frustration. The yards we worked on were full of vines, and I began to feel like our work was making very little difference. While I was taking a well needed break, a neighborhood resident came over to thank us for our work. He commented on how much better the lot looked thanks to us. And that is when it hit me!
Yes, on the surface we were in Tuscaloosa to clean up tornado damage, but location aside, this trip had an even deeper meaning. It wasn’t about just Tuscaloosa. This immersion experience was about our common purpose as fraternity men and sorority women: making the world a better place. This trip was a chance to not only serve this purpose, but realize it. Whether it be in Tuscaloosa, across the country, or around the world, we are called to change the world. Each organization may have its own values, but all of our founders created an organization that they believed would make the world a better place.
With that common purpose in mind, today’s work proved that we will be most successful with making the world a better place when we work together. Fraternity and sorority members from across the country came together to make the Tuscaloosa area better, one lot at a time. As we collaborated to get through the struggles of the 3:00 hour today, I not only understood our purpose as Greeks, but I finally understood why coming together is so important.
Are we collaborating in our own communities? Are we changing our campus, our community, and our world? Until we come together as a Greek community, we will never fully achieve our common purpose.
Christopher Rettich is a junior at Western Michigan University and a member of Pi Kappa Phi.