By Carol Sheppard
I recently returned from a five-day trip to North Carolina, where I celebrated Fifty Years of
Friendship with members of my college sorority, Chi Omega. We met each other in 1968 as freshmen at the University of Missouri (you do the math). We are called Sisters on Purpose and have created a bond that has held up through five decades. In college, we learned the songs and the secrets, and lived in a house where we shared rooms with up to four people and changed rooms three times a year. Our group encouraged scholarship, involvement in campus and community activities, character, and, of course, sisterhood.
We attended each other’s weddings, celebrated the births of children and grandchildren, and consoled each other as we lost our parents. We are spread across the United States, now living in Massachusetts, Indiana, Missouri, California, Colorado, North Carolina, and, of course, Florida. Throughout the years, we have savored the opportunity to get together to catch up in person, reminisce about old times, share our views of the present, enjoy walks on the beach, eat at restaurants, sightsee, and marvel at the lasting power of our friendship.
It is no wonder that I lead us in all of our songs. We all have favorites, and even after 50 years, we remember … or are reminded of … the words. We don’t sound like a Sweet Adelines chorus, but we belt out the tunes with great gusto. We even have a few that require our memory of past choreography.
I shared with my 50-year friends that I have found many of the same joys and satisfactions through South Florida Jubilee that I did through our sorority in our college days. No, I don’t mean the secrets and the rituals. Rather, there are other similarities that I count.
First, I love the friendships I have made. Not only am I greeted by hugs on Thursday nights, but my circle of new friends has expanded to include lunch dates, book clubs, bridge clubs and concerts, to name a few activities. I find SFJ a safe place to be. It is a group I know I can count on. We rally together to support each other in times of need, and to celebrate our times of joy.
Next, I like giving back to the community. In SFJ, we sing for a variety of groups as a nonprofit. I love singing at the Plantation Memorial Day and Veterans Day programs, thinking of my father and father-in-law and their service to their country. Nothing is more moving to me than going to the South Florida Veterans Home and singing in the wards. When we sing “God Bless America,” we are amazed by the reaction of our veterans to the song. Even those in the most challenged states recognize and remember and awaken to the tune about the country they love.
Of course, I like to perform! I do not have the best voice in the chorus. I am definitely a work in progress. But with the fine direction and lessons from James and Kimberly, I feel I am improving. Whether it’s rehearsal on Thursday night, a community program, our holiday show, or our seven minutes of regional competition, I love raising my voice in song with the group. And when we hear the chords ring, WOW!
Finally, it’s good for my health. Singing opens positive endorphins, and when I am finished singing, I feel better. Singing gives me a more positive outlook on life in general.
Arlene gives us motivational messages that are good not only for singing, but also to apply to my everyday life.
I started SFJ too late in life to ever get a 50-year pin. But I know the value of this good thing. When I get my five-year pin, I will cherish it just as I cherish my framed certificate of 50 years in my sorority. Luckily for my SFJ friends, they will not have to wince when I announce at every stop, “We’re celebrating 50 years of friendship.” The years may be fewer, but the benefits are much the same.