Importance of involvement

Published 10:06pm Saturday, June 28, 2014

Joining a club or organization usually seems like a small thing at first, a way to pass the time, make friends – because a parent talks you into it.

It’s not until later that see the full impact that small decision makes. It may take months or years to realize you are a part of something bigger, something that has changed an integral part of who you are

Working on this week’s cover story about 4-H reminded me of that. It reminded me of the passion of being a part of something bigger. There’s something about having that instant connection with someone you just met.

There’s a popular quote by C.S. Lewis that says “Friendship is born at that moment when one man says to another: ‘What! You, too? I thought that no one but myself…’” Lewis here is talking about a deeper connection than I am, but that “You, too” phenomenon is still present.

I remember very vividly the morning after bid day, when my great-aunt, a Pi Phi at her own alma mater, called excitedly to welcome me into this treasured organization. Or when I find out someone I’ve never met before shares my alma mater. There’s an instant sense of camaraderie. I have walked where you have. I have participated in the same rituals as you.

I think that is part of the reason people can be so enthusiastic about their alma mater’s athletics. Sure, there are people who just genuinely like to watch sports, it doesn’t matter who’s playing. But connections are a lot of what drives a person to form a passion for Mississippi State or Ole Miss or any of them.

I look forward to going back to Starkville this fall, to sit back in Davis Wade, to yell the fight song, to ring my cowbell. I know it won’t be the same. For starters, I’ll have a three-hour drive to look forward to the next day. I won’t be surrounded with the same friends, but I will be surrounded by my Bulldogs.

One of the worst parts about being a part of an organization is that you find yourself being defensive. I can complain about something at State, but if you didn’t go there, your argument is invalid.

I have also seen this same connection arise with faith. I grew up in the Episcopal church, and whenever I meet someone else affiliated with that denomination, it also piques my attention.

Although towards the end of my college career I started attending a Methodist church, my first couple years when I would get a little homesick, going to the Episcopal church in Brookhaven helped relieve that. The consistency of the service always took me back to the church I grew up in.

The ritualistic aspect of the service is one of the biggest complaints I hear about denominations like Episcopalian. But for me it forms and a sort of cocoon or home-like feeling that can be found no matter where you are. And if the point of church services is to fellowship with other believers and become vulnerable through asking for forgiveness, shouldn’t it be done in a place that feels safe?

Every club, every organization you become a part takes a little part of you and spreads to the others, and a little of everyone else becomes a part of you. A quick decision to try out for debate or the football team can change you and may just make you a little stronger than you were before.

So go out there and join something, join anything. It doesn’t matter if you’re 12 or 70. There is a group out there for you.

Julia V. Pendley is the lifestyles editor of The Daily Leader. You may email her at or mail a letter to her at Julia V. Pendley, Lifestyles Editor, P.O. Box 551, Brookhaven, MS 39602-0551.