There once was a cowboy walking alone around the desert when he came upon a genie lamp and hoping for three wishes of good fortune, instead, the genie said he had advice for him.
The genie said, “I have something more valuable than wishes for you. I have advice that will make you the happiest person in the world and the saddest person in the world at the same time.” The cowboy listened intently, and the genie continued, “As you wander through the desert I want you to pick up every stone that you see. Big ones, small ones, shiny ones, and dull ones. Pick them all up and put them in your pack. If you do this, the next day you will wake up and with the most joy you have ever felt, followed by deep regret.” Then the genie disappeared. He thought: “What do I have to lose?” Then he picked up his first stone and put it in his pack. As the day went on, he picked up stones and placed them in his pack. He kept moving, and hour after hour, his pack kept getting heavier and heavier. He stopped adding to the heavy burden and went to sleep. When he woke up in the morning he checked his pack. The cowboy couldn’t believe his eyes! All of the rocks he had picked up and lugged through the desert had turned to beautiful jewels, diamonds, rubies, emeralds! He was so excited and happy. He was rich! But then all of the sudden … a wave of sorrow came over him. “What if I had picked up one more rock?” he thought. The cowboy knew it would have been worth its weight in gold.
My collegiate time in Phi Mu parallels this story in so many ways. Throughout the years, I had the opportunity to pick up so many stones that have turned into my greatest gems. From friendships that have turned into my fondest treasures, to stones of leadership positions waiting to be unturned. I, maybe like some of you, did not expect to gain as much from this organization as I did. I underestimated how much I would gain and how invaluable this organization would become to me. I never would have thought of myself as a sorority woman, and now it is one of my biggest points of pride. Why do you ask? It is all about women helping women… sisters helping sisters. This is precisely what a Phi Mu Foundation does and why it has me forever grateful.
The stone that began it all for me, the one that to this day remains the brightest gem in my collection is the Phi Mu Leadership Institute. In June 2017, I was poured into more than I ever thought possible by sisters from across the country. This was a pivotal moment in my leadership journey and when I first began to realize the power my voice had. We discussed how to become confident women in society today and ways to lift one another up. We became self-reflexive and used introspection to discover our own life values and the mission we wanted for our own lives. I gained support from mentors and sisters alike and was given the opportunity to reciprocate that. I learned that Phi Mu is so much more than just my chapter, but a connection of women across the country who share the same Creed and Bond as me. I can still vividly recall one of my favorite memories that have the power to bring me back to this moment: reciting the Creed with hundreds of sisters who had just met moments before. The beauty of our shared Bond continues to baffle me and humble my heart as I reflect on the magnitude of what sisterhood really means.
The Phi Mu Leadership Institute gave me the confidence in myself to do brave, bold things. After this experience, I went on to pick up many different stones and pebbles. Becoming Chapter President was my biggest, heaviest gem that I am still reaping the benefits from. In this role, I witnessed sisters first-hand receiving benefits from the Foundation through scholarships and support that has had such a positive impact on their collegiate experience. The meaning of “sisters helping sisters” is not one that I take lightly. When I thought my pack was beginning to get too heavy, I had the most miraculous thing happen to me. My sisters helped me carry my load, the shared the weight and encouraged me to keep moving.
As my collegiate years end, I will continue to pick up stones and empower others to do the same during my time as a Chapter Consultant, thanks to the fundraising efforts of the Phi Mu Foundation that help to support this program. My greatest hope and wish for you, no matter where you are on your Phi Mu journey— whether you are a provisional member, collegiate active member, or an alumna— is that you continue to pick up rocks, stones, and pebbles along your way. You never know the value that you may gain and the opportunities to help other sisters that you may get. Investing in Phi Mu Foundation for me is the next gem I have my eye on picking up, and I cannot wait to begin to see the ripple effects to come.
Marisa Kahnt is an alumna of the Rho Eta Chapter at Grand Valley State University, a member of the 2018-19 Collegiate Leadership Council and a 2019-20 Phi Mu Chapter Consultant.