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Every year, around this time, the calls and emails start rolling in. It's one of those late summer Southern rituals, like obsessing over the upcoming college football season or finding new recipes for all of those vegetables from the garden. A former colleague's babysitter is going through rush. Or a girl from your aunt's Sunday School class. And she sure would like a letter of recommendation.
And so, you sit down with a good pen, your favorite monogrammed stationery, and the rec form from your organization's national website. You attempt to convey all the wonderful things you've been told about the young woman -- her involvement in her hometown church, her stellar (or otherwise) academic record, her potential for contribution to the chapter. If you're lucky, you've met the woman and can speak to her character and her demeanor. Other times, you're spinning a yarn that sounds something like "her grandmother is the most gracious lady I've ever met."
Whatever you do, you try not to look at the birth date the young woman has provided on her helpfully enclosed résumé. If you do, it's all over. You start to do the math and realize that she was born after you pledged your own chapter. Suddenly, you find yourself thinking in the clichéd quotations of Shirley MacLane's character from Steel Magnolias. If you're forward-thinking enough to ignore that little string of numbers, you can continue to channel the Julia Roberts character from that film. (Who, by the way, was a Phi Mu as well.)
As you seal up the letter, you think of all the ways that your sorority has impacted your life. The lifetime friendships as well as those fallen long to the wayside. The camaraderie that has arisen when you realize a co-worker or social acquaintance shares your Greek affiliation. The feeling of belonging that was so important to a painfully young first-year student. The lessons about working toward a common goal, even when you're on a team you don't like at the moment. The commitment to charitable causes.
As you address the envelope to the chapter lucky enough to make this young woman's acquaintance, you feel a pang of regret. You should be giving more back. Just after graduation, you served punch as an alumna hostess at those rush parties. You then moved up to advisory duties within the chapter. But then, life got in the way. You really should go back to the alumnae dinners, or see if the chapter needs your help in some way. You really did find it incredibly rewarding to help those young women meet their leadership potential.
And so, you reaffirm your own pledge that you made more years ago than you'd like to count. Maybe you'll help, and maybe you won't. But it sure would be nice to pick up some new sorority swag. They make Lilly Pulitzer scarves and Tervis Tumblers now. And who can say no to that?