Seriously, it’s awful. On our last night in Philadelphia my wife and I were walking down the sidewalk heading to dinner. Along the way we were talking about our observations on this topic.
If you haven’t been to Philadelphia, go! Seriously, it’s an awesome place. Lots of history if you like all that stuff. Ben Franklin’s big smiling mug is all over the place. Great places to eat and drink. World class museums. Nine million different places to get the same meat, cheese, and bread sandwich over and over. And nice people!
Yea, you heard me right. Seriously nice people. Some of you may be shaking your heads remembering fans at the old Vet pelting opposing players with snowballs laden with rocks, batteries, and select organic matter. It was one of the most brutal places to play in the NFL. The same fans booed Santa Claus. Santa! Even the turf was mean, bringing an early end to the pro career of former LSU wide receiver Wendell Davis when he played for the Bears (yea, I still remember that!)
But I didn’t see any of that. So back to my story. We’re walking to dinner talking about the bad parking. Cars are lined up on both sides of the street as far as the eye can see. As we’re walking, a guy gets into his car to pull out and another guy in a Mini stops to take his spot. The guy in the first car opens his door, gets out and walks to the Mini. Uh oh! What’s about to go down! He hands him a slip of paper. A receipt. A parking receipt! “Here, I have more time left on this if you need it.”
This kind of generosity wasn’t isolated. We saw it every day of our trip. Philadelphians being nice to each other and visitors. The City of Brotherly Love lived up to its nickname.
Our college is huge, bigger than many small towns. We’d actually meet the requirements of a village if we were set down in rural France. One of our goals despite this size is to make the College a more engaging place. But to do that, you need to engage! Help each other out. Offer assistance. Talk to each other. Get to know each other. Form study groups. Discuss your goals. Why are you in college? Where have you worked? Where do you work now? What do you want to do after graduation? And then…how can you help each other! You don’t have to be a member of a club to get to know each other.
Look, if a bunch of cheesesteak eating, football watching, beer drinking ruffians can learn to get along (as long as you aren’t a Cowboys fan!) then we can learn to work with each other. But we can’t do it alone. We can’t make you engage. We can give you opportunities like Welcome to the Majors, CareerFest, Starter Riot, and end of the semester competitions. We can put you in groups, assign you discussions, and put you through the shared misery of a hard class. We can offer almost two dozen unique student organizations where you can meet people who share your career and social goals. But what we can’t do is actually make you talk to each other.
So next semester as you wait for class to start, stop staring ahead or put down your phone and introduce yourself to the person next to you. It could be the start of something awesome!