College is an intricate world of exploration and goals and passions and interests and confusion and interactions with a million different people who have the potential to completely change you even though they might be only a fleeting presence in your life. And with college, as with many things in life, you kind of have to dive in head first, open-minded, learning to trust the hands and the hearts of the people – those special select few – who will want to get to know your favorite color and the way you drink your coffee black – two sugars, and who will notice that face you make when you get defensive, and who will love the way you look at the world.
The start of my adventure, once I was brave enough to take the leap into the scary depths of university life, brought me – encouraged by the wonderful person who became my Big – into the loving circle of Alpha Phi Omega and the brothers – read: siblings – that have become such a significant part of my life. Quick to welcome new faces and eager to speak of their passion for service and their friendships in the brotherhood, APO, our co-ed service fraternity, intrigued me. And this is where I found a niche. These are the people who drop everything to be there for each other, who protect and love so unconditionally. Within APO, we quickly learn of and cherish the talents of our brothers, proudly speaking to others of brothers who play sports, do photography, make films, act, dance, cook, lead, and otherwise flourish in so many ways. We’re able to so easily become a part of each other’s lives and my brothers are the ones I turn to first. One of the things I love most about APO, however, is that it’s never only about the bonds formed within the APO family, but also about reaching out to the community and getting to know the kids, the women, and the families that we help in our service.
I suppose the writer in me has always been fascinated by people, caught up in the fact that this person has a scar below the ear and that person bites her fingernails, obsessed with the stories of the strangers I see, wondering what ‘happy’ feels like for them, and whom they love. People are unbelievably interesting. Within APO, we become characters in each other’s stories as friendships evolve through rush, and pledge, and brotherhood. But even beyond that, with APO service projects, I’m introduced to so many different people with so many different lives. And these stories begin to matter as well. I met a mother last spring who brought her children to our carnival every year. She had wanted to be a teacher, and had even started getting her degree. But the kids are more important, she says, and she had to stop her education to care for her daughters. “It’s worth it,” she told me while handing a lollipop to her younger daughter. “I’d give up anything for these two, any day.” Or meet Trinity, age ten, and her seven-year-old sister Ariel, boisterous and huggable, who run to greet us every Monday at the Homework Club. This Thanksgiving, they wrote down that they were grateful to have food, grateful that mom loves them, and grateful for us, the tutors.
And captivated by the stories from mothers with weary eyes but soldier hearts who know that their love for their children is all they need, or appreciated by kids we help through struggles and with whom we celebrate successes, the brothers become so passionately involved in our community. For me, Alpha Phi Omega has always been about both the heart-warming dynamics of the fraternity and the service that we do. It’s the love and support for each other and the need to care for as many people as possible in the community at large that make us Alpha Phi Omega and hold us together. And through all the stories yet to be shared, it’s nice to know I always have my bros.