The freshman sat in his dorm room on the bed as the 3 older guys formed a semi-circle around him. They all wore khaki pleated pants, button-up shirts tucked in, topsiders, and neatly parted hair; contrasting sharply with the surf shirt, baggy shorts, scruffy hair, and flip flops that the younger guy wore.
“You can’t survive on this campus….” Said the leader in an overly deep voice “…without joining a fraternity. (Long pause here for emphasis). ….And the Chi Delts is the most respected frat on campus. We have the pick of the crop, the best parties, and you’ll come out of college with the most useful connections”. The younger guy laughed and looked up at them and said, “If I choose to join a frat I’ll consider you guys, but right now I’ve got some stuff I need to do”. The older guys looked shocked. One said something about how the younger guy would regret not going to the mixer with them and they filed out to round up other recruits.
The thing is that the young guy grew up in Galveston. And for those of you that grew up here you know what I mean. Kids that come from this environment have a very different set of experiences. Galveston has a long, long history of diversity, tolerance, and worldliness. He had grown up with big beach bonfires, high school fraternities and sororities, exposure to all kinds of different people, friends that were from varied backgrounds, ethnicities, cultures, and religions.
Most of all, he and his peers had grown up on and around the beach. From beach bonfires on the weekends, surfing, mixing socially with friends’ parents, to long bike rides along the seawall hanging out with all kinds of characters.
For better or worse, kids grow up fast here, but the good thing is that when they leave, they have social tools that other kids don’t have at the same age. They also have a strong core and basic sense of fairness that shines through. You can always recognize who’s from here even if you don’t know them.
Galveston is in a real transitional phase right now. This is normal for a city of this age as power transitions to some extent from dynasties to newer immigrants. New blood and a fresh point of view is a good thing, especially if old values are retained and the end product is a fusion of what’s good in both groups and change is not merely made for its own sake. There is room and need for both camps.
So the conclusion of this story is that the young man did not join the fraternity. But he did end up being friends with many of the fraternity members along with friendships he cultivated in a variety of groups. As a Galvestonian he wasn’t able to limit himself to one type of friends. But thanks to his Galveston roots he was able to look past differences and focus on commonalities.
The Galveston Way.