What keeps us together?

What makes a unit? Unites? Makes ties that bind?

Does it take an institution to create that bond?

Take, for example, a student group or club. I’ve been asked to join MONTS (Michigan Organization of Non-Traditional Students). Divided, we wander aimlessly through the channels and byways that were built for full-time U-M cohorts. It’s a new group. I think there are fourteen members. Will we coalesce? Be more, together?

Another institution: marriage. Left to each other – without the vows, and the paper, and the ceremony before friends and family – are you entering into an institution? All the trappings are called “the institution of marriage.” It’s certainly tougher to break. But does it make stronger links?

I thought, for a long time, of friendship as an institution. I am deeply loyal. I don’t trust easily, and so, I thought the gift of sincere friendship was revered equally. Sure, you have differences. You cause pain. But you commit. Together through thick and think, you endure.

Turns out, I didn’t understand the premise. Friendship seems, now, a sliding scale. Slide in. Slide out. There are times of intensity. And times to walk away. I am stunned by how easy it is for some to walk away. They don’t even look back.

Would some sort of friendship vow (or family vow, for that matter), a formalized institution, raise the bar? Not enough to just be born into a subset. Or to enroll. Should we have formalized ritual at the onset? Declare our intentions?

sorry i'm late girl scout

Take Girl Scouts. This was not strictly a Girl Scout tenet, but it’s where I heard, “The way to have a friend is to be one.” The other night, I was due for one thing or another involving a friend and I did not want to go. This thought kept my foot on the gas pedal and my car headed in her direction. “On my honor, I will try…”

You make a pledge. A solemn vow. It’s not going to be easy to let go, even through the years. You can’t just say, “I didn’t want to.” Or think, “You’re not worth it,” or “But you hurt my feelings.” In the Institution of Friendship, you would say, “…to help other people at all times.”

This group I’m joining, MONTS, well, I’m going with an open mind. I would like to think what I am joining is a supportive group of people who are concerned with the welfare of one another. What I fear is that, like my misunderstanding of friendship, this will be something organized around the wants and needs of individuals.

Not an institution, at all, just another place to slide in, look around, and slide out.


Vintage Girl Scout postcard: postcardy.blogspot.com
Vintage Girl Scout Uniform photo: Pinterest image (edited by J. Preston)