I know I dogged on this term earlier a little bit, so I would like to clarify; I mentioned brotherhood as a go-to standard response to the original questions. I don’t mean at all that brotherhood is not a big deal or that it is a bad thing at all. But to somebody on the outside, there is little understanding about what brotherhood is or what it really means. Brotherhood is much more than a group of close friends or hunting and/or drinking buddies. These men that I now call brothers aren’t merely close friends, they truly are family. Growing up, I didn’t have any brothers, only a sister, so the concept of having a brother is a relatively unique experience for me. I didn’t get just one brother, though. I got roughly 400 of them. True, I don’t actually know most of them. In fact, I’ve only truly met a few of them. But they are all still brothers, an integral part of my family. They are the ones that will be standing beside me at my wedding, the ones that I can lean on more than anybody on this earth when I am at the lowest points and struggles in life all the way up to my greatest, most successful accomplishments, and literally any point in my life in between.
On the subject of brotherhood as it relates to being like family, there is one surefire way to know that this brotherhood is the real deal. Several times, when we have been out doing something, especially just two or three of us together, complete strangers have made a point to mention to us that they could tell we’re brothers. This wasn’t because we all had our letters on, in fact, in most of these scenarios we didn’t. But the way we acted, bantering back and forth and laughing at each other’s misfortune, horsing around, etc. made people think we were actually legally brothers, as if we had literally grown up together from childhood. My favorite situation where this sort of recognition occurred happened when my big brother and I took a trip to the river to do some swimming. His girlfriend and one of her friends went with us, and we were swimming and horsing around in the water, tackling each other and dragging each other into the river, and an older couple was watching and laughing at our shenanigans. The gentleman said between laughs, “I can tell you two are brothers! Probably been picking on each other like that your whole lives.” We laughed and told him that we were actually fraternity brothers, and had only been picking on each other for a couple of years. At the time it didn’t seem all that significant, but when I reflect on that moment, it is another one of those things that causes me to swell up with pride. To me, it means that this fraternity is doing at least one thing right in the subject of brotherhood, which is largely considered a major part of fraternity life.
Brotherhood cannot be summed up by picking on each other and horsing around like it is nothing more than normal behavior between brothers. While we do it quite a bit, that’s not even what makes us true brothers. I believe that the strongest expression of our brotherhood can be most accurately described by the way we pick each other up out of the hard times. I have personally seen brothers struggle with things like bad break-ups with long time girlfriends, particularly girlfriends that they had been with for so long that it would have been more expected that they would end up getting married at some point. As you can imagine, this can have devastating effects on a man, and I think that had it not been for the support they could find from the other brothers, helping pick them up and push forward, they would have probably done some very regrettable things. I also saw a brother who struggled with an addiction lead him to thoughts of suicide that had it not been for a couple of particular brothers showing some much needed support and at times words of tough love, he would likely not be here today, and he credits these brothers with literally saving his life. When another one of our brothers lost his mother, we were there and even though many of us had not met her, we made a two hour road trip to see him and attend her funeral. In the following months brothers freed up time in their schedules to help him make trips back home to haul trailer loads of personal effects that he had been left with in the wake of her passing. I am not sure if I could describe actually witnessing stronger support than the way we gathered around him and helped him stay strong enough to finish school and graduate the following year. For me, if it hadn’t been for being a part of this fraternity I would have been out of school after the first year. My grades were simply terrible and without the desire to come back and be involved in school had it not been for the fraternity. The chapter also provided a great support group, some guys even going out of their way to help me pull my grades up, which are now steadily climbing every semester.