This weekend, I went to Oswego, New York for a mini-college reunion. This was for members of Alpha Phi Omega, a national service organization founded on the principles of Scouting and dedicated to community service.
This was more than just a reunion for me. It was revisiting a place where I learned lessons that shaped the way I deal with people.
You see, this group planned many service projects for the campus and surrounding community that raised funds and awareness for good causes. Having previously been a Scout, it seemed only natural that I join in these worthy endeavors.
However, things were sometimes not so worthy. Within this group was a small cadre that insisted on maintaining control of the organization's direction. And this subgroup had a nasty habit of bullying, excluding, and personally attacking those who disagreed with them. Little by little, their tactics infected the group until it became rife with gossip, slander, and resentment.
Back then, my response was to take a stand against these practices. I demanded that they cease and desist. I rushed to the defense of those who had been maligned. I even pushed to have this group's constitution amended to prohibit this unacceptable behavior.
At this point in my life, I had not yet learned the word "backlash." It would be taught to me the hard way.
Despite my best efforts, I could not eradicate this scourge from the organization that I felt needed repurification. Although the numbers to back me up were most likely there, the support was not. The passion, the strength, and the dedication that I brought to my desire to make the chapter better was unfortunately met with defeat.
Still, there were many victories I achieved in this campaign. Much the way that a small cadre was able to wield so much power in the chapter, a small but loyal group of trusted friends surrounded me. While there may have been adversaries who thought nothing of cutting me down, there were also allies who thought everything of me, and I of them. They reminded me that there was still a goodness in our chapter underneath all the bickering and pettiness. They showed me that respect could still be earned. And they reminded me that committing myself to the true purposes of our organization was laudable, no matter what obstacles or roadblocks lay ahead.
Today, the same drive to awaken good men and to prevent them from falling under the evil influence is alive and well. But rather than fueling impassioned speeches met with rolling eyes and whispered derision, it fuels this very blog. The reason I was defeated 20+ years ago was because I thought I could convince people who behaved in alpholish behavior to stop or leave. This was not possible. Now I make it my business to empower those who bear the brunt of alpholish behavior to rise above it and against it. To make them strong enough to prevent any chink in their armor that an alpholish blast could leave. To make them bold enough to stand up these practices and make themselves heard. And to be good enough to know that the alpholes don't make the final decision as to their self worth.
Unless we have children at home in our custody and control, we can't teach anyone how to behave. No matter how obnoxious, hurtful, or unethical they are, it's not our job to convert them into saints and angels. The only thing we can do in response to this inevitable evil, this consequence of parents who neglected their responsibilities, is to steel ourselves against their full arsenal and to embolden ourselves enough to give the kind of responses that we'd be proud to have quoted later. A naive and idealistic young man did not understand this, but a mature man who's learned many of life's lessons does!
And so I returned to the very site of those early struggles a new man. Thankfully, none of my former adversaries were present. Rather, I spent time with some of the aforementioned close friends and made new friends with former acquaintances. I explored the campus, transformed significantly over two decades, and experienced the country goodness of quaint neighboring towns. Not to mention, I ran a good long run through the town and campus as a way of returning victorious to my old stomping grounds.
So now I return to my usual undertakings, refreshed and replenished, and ready to recommit myself to the Four Pillars and their definitions. May the lessons of our past likewise serve as road maps for our present and reference for our future.
I EXIST. I MATTER. I BELONG. I DESERVE.
I AM BOLD. I AM BULLETPROOF. I AM BETA.