Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Welcoming Committee

On September 6th, my husband and I attended the Furman-Virginia Tech football game. Whenever we go to away games, we sometimes worry about how competitive the fans will be and how they will react to visitors. I was amazed how welcome we were made to feel as soon as we came across anyone connected to Virginia Tech. People smiled at us and told us how glad they were that we were there. I’m not talking just people my age and older, but I’m also talking about young people who obviously attend Virginia Tech or support the school.

After we parked our car we had to ask someone for directions to the stadium and they were so willing to help us. Another man came up and greeted us near the stadium and when I asked him how the team got its name, he told me some of the history of the school. He also suggested some beautiful sights to see since we were early for the game. On his advice, we wandered the campus and met another couple who were alumni and they also told us more about their school. It was so nice to see how much pride people had about their school and I hope people see the same thing when they come to Furman. We also went to the Memorial honoring the people who were killed in the shooting tragedy a year ago. It was very moving and visitors from both teams were there to see it. The campus itself was beautiful.

As we walked back to the stadium, many young people greeted us and thanked us for being there. It constantly amazed me how friendly everyone was. At first I thought it was just a couple of friendly people but then it continued all day while we were there. Even after the game as we walked to our car, we passed two young men, who looked like students, in a conversation. They looked up and smiled and told us that they appreciated us being there. We passed one house where they were having a party and one of the guys offered us a drink if we were thirsty. When we declined they told us they hoped we had a safe trip home.

This made me think about Furman and I hope we are as welcoming to visitors so my husband and I made it a point this past weekend to greet visitors and welcome them. Wouldn’t it be great if we had a group of students who spent an hour wandering the tailgate area and greeted visitors and welcomed them? Maybe we already do have that but I’m not sure. I think competitiveness is great between the teams but this welcoming attitude is just as important. From here on out, I will make it a point to be extra caring to visitors who support the opposing team.

I think we should be teaching this on the high school level also. As a high school teacher, I have felt many anxious moments when we leave a game and see tempers rising because one team lost. Maybe we need to start at this level and it will roll over onto the college level. I was amazed that it wasn’t only the older adults welcoming us at Virginia Tech but also the students. They had to learn this attitude from somewhere and it couldn’t have been all of a sudden. Maybe we need to model this for our students better on the high school level. I’m not sure what the answer is but after a taste of it on the receiving side, I plan to do a better job of giving.

I really think this welcoming attitude is led by the community and by the administration of Virginia Tech. I don’t think it would happen if the leadership was not somehow involved and encouraged by the community. I want to thank Virginia Tech and the community for making me feel so comfortable and welcomed. It made a difference.

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