What I’m thankful for – Sam Bessey

For the fourth annual Chi Psi Thanksgiving blog series, we asked the Central Office staff to tell us about what they are most thankful for this holiday season. Today you’ll hear from #23 Sam Bessey.

What are you thankful for this holiday season?

I’ve been working at the Central Office for fifteen years and while the core values of Chi Psi are as old and true as the three sentences of the preamble, it sometimes seems I now work for an organization that is very different from the one I first set out to lead in the 1990s.

Technology has played a big part in this juxtaposition: that I’m blogging about my experience or regularly keep in contact with hundreds of active and alumni Brothers online is irrefutable evidence the way we communicate has changed and augmented the Chi Psi experience from undergrad years on.

In some ways, life in an Alpha was faster, looser, and definitely documented less when I started.  There was no texting, facebooking, tweeting or snapchatting when I took on this role.  But if one were to ask me if change in technology and evolution in the pervasive culture were a bad thing, I would say, undoubtedly no.

Change has brought the continued embrace of different race, religion, and orientation reflecting directly upon a Brother’s daily life. Change has evolved, informed, and enlightened the Chi Psi experience. I would say, unequivocally, change has been for the better.

But that doesn’t mean I can’t get nostalgic for the past. I’m both honored and amused to get a glimpse into the life of the Chi Psi Brotherhood in 2013. I see, with little or no filter, the inside jokes, the day-to-day bonding and the togetherness that will form lasting friendships take place within Alphas, year after year — decade after decade.

No matter what the medium or the current mindset outside the gates of our finest institutions of higher learning, Brothers who share these Bonds continue to be Brothers for life.

And yet, sometimes in my daily interactions, in my attempt to do what I can to keep the organization alive and thriving, I forget about what originally drew me to Chi Psi — the Brothers at Eta Delta from 1993 – 1995.

I got a nice reminder this summer, when I decided on a whim to fly out for the 40th birthday of fellow Duck, Richard William DeWeese III HD `96.

Rick as Freddy

Rick as Freddy

Brother DeWeese and I didn’t necessarily travel in the same circles during our time together in Eugene. In spite of what’s written in The Chi Psi Story, Brothers tend to flock to a small handful of like-minded folks. And while I wouldn’t say cliques form within Alphas, it’s easy to see how life there is a microcosm of life on the outside: you find your people with similar interests, and that’s who you roll with. 

As an undergrad, I took an interest in campus Greek life, Brother DeWeese was decidedly in favor of taking advantage of keeping both his social and intramural athletic commitments at the top of his list. There wasn’t anyone more fun to be around starting around 4 pm on a Friday (or Monday, or Tuesday, or Wednesday…) than Rick.

I remember he and his folks hosted about thirty of us at their Pacific Palisades home for the 1994 Rose Bowl Game. Many families would’ve cringed at the prospect of opening the doors to their bungalow to more than two dozen young men their son had known for less than six months, but if I remember correctly, Rick’s father was the one going out at 11 p.m. New Year’s Eve in search of more libation. Like father, like son, I suppose.

Birthday

Birthday Freddy with mom and dad

Brother DeWeese is the kind of man you hope you never lose touch with, but sometimes the years go by quickly and life takes unexpected turns. I wouldn’t say we kept in close touch, but I’ve always known what Rick was up to and, on the occasion of his milestone birthday, I knew I had to be there.

He didn’t disappoint. I remember getting picked up from LAX by Andrew Pridgen and John Leatherwood — Brothers I chose to live with off campus my fourth year — and we caught up over a couple beers in Santa Monica, about a mile from where Rick’s party was just underway. While it was nice for the three of us to fill one another in, we couldn’t wait to see Rick, his family and the rest of his extended friend group.

Upon my arrival at his party, Rick greeted me with a giant hug. He was dressed like Freddie Mercury, his idol, from the LiveAid show (mustache included).  In fact, everyone was encouraged to be rocking a ‘stache.  Those who didn’t get the memo were given fake staches for the photo op.  With a microphone stand in one hand and a high-octane margarita in another, Rick sang his favorite Queen standards between throwing his arm around each of the party’s patrons and spending at least ten or fifteen minutes catching up.

I didn’t want the evening to end.

Freddy

Eta Delta Brothers Aaron Lassila `98, me, Rick, Andrew Pridgen `97, and John Leatherwood `97 at Rick’s surprise 40th Birthday Party

I remember grabbing breakfast the next morning as we all looked through the pictures on our phones and wondering whether I could think of an excuse to miss my flight. Part of me wondered whether the night was the one prior or one from twenty years ago. It was as if getting back on the plane might take away a little bit of that magic.

Less than 30 hours after my adventure started, I was back at my desk, still pondering what it is like to see friends grow and change and be faced with the ever-challenging responsibility of family and career and community.

Some are married with big families, and some are still looking for that special someone. Some love their jobs and some, are still looking for a career that fits. Some have sights set on the horizon and what life will bring two decades from now as they ease into retirement, others are simply getting up every morning and living for that day.

For me the toughest part was realizing in this reflection that none of us have a lot in common, especially in the day-to-day. It seems that Rick and I share even less than we did in undergrad.

And yet, I feel closer to him than ever before.

College

Former CO staffer Aaron Abrams, Rick, Aaron Lassila, Brian Chamberlain `97, and Joe Schultz,`97 in the Lodge – apparently on January 11, 1997. Note to Chi Psis born in the 1990’s: back when photos were taken with film, a date stamp could be included.

If Rick ever needed anything, whenever, however — I’d be there, and vice versa. He, no matter how far away, is part of my family. It’s a cliche, yes, yet it’s beyond true. 

And this is why I’m thankful for my job and thankful for Chi Psi. I’m thankful for the ability to see these relationships form. I’m thankful to hear the hopes and dreams of the current active Brothers of Chi Psi. Most of our undergrads are alarmingly aware of the world that awaits, and yet, most do not realize what is most important of all.

This is your extended family, and these friendships, through all the changes and challenges the outside world brings, are, like my weekend with Rick, the ones you never want to end.

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