For information about Delta Chi, the international fraternity, see
http://www.deltachi.org or http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delta_Chi
This is a memoir, not a factual.
"Tom, wake up. Something happened."
I struggle awake, separate myself from my girlfriend and get to the door. Alec apologizes, and says they need me. I'm the president at the time. I curse several times, dress and head into the hall.
Three strangers, obviously drunk, loiter in the entrance hall. Our LAN party is still going on, though everyone's gawking at our guests. The story comes quickly enough. They got drunk at the bar, invited home by two lovely ladies who suggested they cut across the playground, where four dudes were waiting to mug them. Set up and robbed. "Never trust a beautiful woman, especially one who's interested in you."
Call the cops. Cops say they'll be here in a few hours, guys decide they've got more to lose talking to the cops and leave. Call the cops off. Go back to bed. Just another night in Flint.
And if you ask me for the dearest
I'll bid you raise your voices high
And sing what to your heart lies nearest
The praise of dear old Delta Chi.
Great Advantages are to be Derived from a Brotherhood of College and University Men
You don't join a fraternity to buy friends. You don't join a fraternity to fall into a bottle. You don't join a fraternity to bang sorority chicks. You may think you do, and sometimes that's what happens. But it's not why fraternities in America have been around for over 200 years. By signing up for a fraternity, you've just said that you are no longer your own man, a loner. Like getting married, like joining the Marines. And like marriage, sometimes it means that you no longer control all of your fate.
You join a fraternity to provide experiences and hardships that will change your life. You don't get into a fraternity. It gets into you.
Raise the hymn ye legal brothers;
Make its echoes ring!
Hymn of friendship consecrated;
With its joys we sing.
If you didn't know, not many guys grow up knowing how to communicate their feelings. Belonging to a group, especially an arbitrary one, forces you to deal with people who act differently than you. The annoying guy who won't move out of your way. The guy who plays his music too loud. The guy who'll eat all your M&M's if you turn your back for 2 minutes. The guy who spends a lot of time hanging out with your sister. One of our chapter's founding fathers was accused of sleeping with another's girlfriend. At sword point. I'm not kidding.
I watched two roommates play the passive-aggressive game: one would leave his dirty dishes in the living room, the other would take those dishes and put them on the guy's bed. I remember physically picking a guy up and carrying him out of his room because he'd been moping there for weeks since his girlfriend left him. I've seen friendly wrestling turn competitive/aggressive and someone's arse thrown through a wall. I've seen guys not talk to each other for weeks because of what happened in a game of Axis and Allies.
I've also shared a meal with a brother I'd never met in a diner I'll never return to. I've shown up to a house without notice, and they took me in, helped me get oriented to the neighborhood, fed me, and invited me out to a ballgame. They've taught me how to do this for everyone, not just brothers.
Let's drink to our members, the old and the new,
(vive la Delta Chi!)
Wherever they are they are strong, brave, and true.
(vive la Delta Chi!)
The house was dry, but the guys weren't. Our chapter was founded as a haven from the typical fraternity stuff: no alcohol, no tobacco, no illegals allowed in the house, no excuses. In my time we voted to allow cooking sherry and rubbing alcohol. Of course we'd drink, just not at home.
We also were founded as viciously anti-hazing. Every fraternity will tell you they don't haze when you rush, but we really meant it. Every pre-initiation learning experience was actively argued over, whether it constituted hazing or not. We didn't participate in Greek "Letter-shirt Days" because forcing our members to wear something they didn't want to was hazing. No required study days, no mandatory drunksitting, no pledge walks, no gargoyles.
The fraternity gave us useless things to get upset about. To get excited about. To fight for, to avoid, to work on, to worry about. We were the geeks of the geeks, but we still serenaded the (two) sororities on campus and were always well-received. We did numerous home-improvement projects, including re-landscaping the front lawn. We went on retreats, we held celebration dinners, we handed out doughnuts to runners at the city's annual 10-mile race. All these things were paid for by the members; in a way, our discretionary funds were confiscated for more important activities. A lot of times funds were wasted, a lot of times they were spent on what a minority wanted to do. We learned to be vocal about our wants and needs, because it was our money on the line.
I learned how to run a parliamentary-procedure meeting. I learned how to run a themed party. I learned how to strike up a conversation while waiting in line for a book signing. I learned how you console a friend when their grandparents die. When their cat dies. When their love dies. I learned how to be a decent guy, defying the frat boy stereotype.
The Ship of State may shattered be,
The stars fall from the sky,
The mighty oak, a fallen tree,
But ever Delta Chi.
As I said, the fraternity gave us useless and petty things to argue about. Greek Council gave us more. GC set the rules for campus activities, thus, it was mostly the larger houses trying to maintain their influence and protective rules while trying to block the University from prying too much into their parties and rush habits.
One of our members ran unopposed in an election for something or other. Athletics chair, maybe. He was told by the president of Greek Council that usually, small houses didn't set policy. The president then selected a member of his own house to fill the position. That was a battle we lost, but we learned about fair play and giving voice to all.
Delta Chi was founded as a professional organization, a bunch of lawyers. Its spiritual founder is Sir Edward Coke, who said "no man is above the law, not even the king." We still maintain those ideals, of serving humanity and of protecting the weak. As a dumb kid at college, full of ideals, I liked the idea of that, but didn't know how I could do it. It's taking years now, but I'm starting to understand. You can't help anyone if you can't help yourself.
I went away commencement day
We parted soon to meet
But years have passed, and now at last
I have but memories.
Assist in the Acquisition of a Sound Education
For a lot of people, education ends with college. It seems that once you get your diploma, you have a free pass to never crack a book again. In college, many of us don't realize that dynamic equilibrium equations and photonic physics aren't all we're learning. To some, The Basic Expectations of a Delta Chi were just like the Ten Suggestions: follow them when you feel like it. They meant something to me. Mean something to me.
I will strive for academic achievement and practice academic integrity.
I will meet my financial obligations in a timely manner.
I will respect the dignity and worth of all persons.
I will not physically, mentally, psychologically or sexually abuse or haze any human being.
I will protect the health and safety of all human beings.
I will exercise compassion and understanding in dealing with all persons.
Delta Chi was my first exposure to an organization that truly believes that it is our duty in life to improve ourselves, and to help others. It's not competition, though often we competed against each other. It's running a little harder so your jogging partner will too. It's the Scholastic chairman taking the job of checking on people's grades in case anyone's struggling and not asking for help. It's giving up a portion of your own money to have a barbeque in order to meet new people and grow your circle of friends. It's getting up early on a Saturday to volunteer for the local mental-health nonprofit.
I learned that a small group of people, working towards a common goal, can do things that the individuals themselves cannot do. Including smoothing the rough edges of personality and producing a gentleman.
If Delta Chi does not do something positive
towards making a man a stronger,
more virile, broad-minded,
refined, educated, and positive character,
preparing him to better fill his place in the world and making him a better citizen,
it has not lived up to its standard or justified its existence...
-- George B. Bush, Stanford ’09
first Traveling Secretary of the Delta Chi Fraternity
When I went away to college I was the shy kid who just lurked in the background. I'd seen 14 seasons of sports, 4 years of marching band, 2 years of jazz band, 3 years of math club. I'd never been captain of any of it. Never in NHS, never in student government, never did anything at church. I did enough to get by and as soon as they stopped nagging, I stopped working.
At our yearly retreat, Alec had pulled me aside to talk about the upcoming chapter elections. We were the oldest in the group, and were preparing to step up and make our contribution to the group. We'd just finished figuring out where we wanted the other guys to be, who to be treasurer and secretary and philanthropy chair. We were standing in a field, away from the group, stars above. He said, "You need to be president, you're so good with people. They'll follow you."
And I wept. I never did anything special, I just listened to people. I couldn't conceive of being in charge of anything. I didn't want it. I couldn't do it. But there it was, I needed to do it. The fraternity needed me to, and I needed me to. I looked up at the stars again, and started to understand that life often asks us the impossible, to bear the unbearable. It's up to us to accept the job we're given and rise to the challenge.
Many times since then I've realized that something must be done. I'm getting quicker at realizing that when I'm looking around for who will do it, that it's me. Someone plops a baby in my arms, or there's a spill at work, or a friend calls in tears. Someone should do something. And now, someone does.
Lyrics in italics taken from the Delta Chi songbook, found at http://deltachi.org/resources/songbook/
Section headers taken from the Delta Chi preamble, found at http://deltachi.org/values/
The Ten Basic Expectations of a Delta Chi can also be found at http://deltachi.org/values/