It’s certainly no secret that I have a very strong connection to my alma mater, Clemson University, as it was the site of my first love, failure, and many memorable successes. Seeing a class ring on the right hands of the masses as they sing the alma mater after each major event brings to me inexplicable amounts of emotion; noticing a tiger paw on the back of a car miles from familiarity makes me feel right at home. Daily, I am thankful for the community that my undergraduate experience has given me; however, it is not everyday that I am reminded just how powerful that community can be.
Over the holiday, I had the opportunity to attend the Chick Fil A Bowl in Atlanta, Georgia on New Year’s Eve. LSU was definitely favorited in the contest against my Tigers, but we still managed to maintain hope. If you know me, even a little, you know that I am one of the biggest Tiger fans out there, maybe even a fanatic. I’ve painted up, camped out for tickets, and traveled many miles to see a good match (yes, even after graduation). It physically hurts me to see our men and women fall short.
The Chick Fil A bowl was physically and emotionally draining to observe. By the fourth quarter, I had given up standing as I cheered; my team was down, and so was I. Then, the 4th and 16 conversation happened, and the dome echoed in cheers. The Clemson Tigers rallied from a 24-13 deficit to defeat the LSU Tigers 24-25 in the final two seconds of the game.
Why am I telling this story? First, I never want to forget it. It was quite possibly the best way I have ever ended/begun the year. Second, it reminded me of the power of community. In the final snaps, the Clemson fans around me created a chain, locking it up as we call it, as if we were willing the points to be scored, sending our energy to our players on the field. Did we know each other? Not really. Were we united by our passion for Clemson University? Yes.
That’s the power of community that can be cultivated within the undergraduate experience. It is such that it needs no introduction; just faith.