The Strawberry Patch

Enrichment and Inspiration for Beta Sigma Phi Sisters from Marilyn Ross

Our Colors of Tradition

Speech presented by Marilyn Ross at the Washington State Convention

 Every organization which has a background of achievement has entertained certain traditions that are observed year after year until they are accepted as part of the organization itself. Tradition is defined as the handing down of information, beliefs and customs by word of mouth or by example from one generation to another. These things which bind and bond us are valued because they make working toward and facing tomorrow meaningful. They are what are certain in a world of uncertainty.

We have many time-honored traditions in Beta Sigma Phi. What colors would you apply to each of our sorority traditions?

An exercise in the study or review of our traditions would make an excellent BSF review and/or chapter program. Invite each member to categorize our traditions (by using the colors of our jewels) on a separate sheet of paper. Afterward, discuss their choices, remembering there are no right or wrong answers. This would provide great insight into each other as well as our sorority precepts.

Green: Ray of that Flame shall be Fellowship

 Let's start with the color green, our color of Fellowship. The definition of our green Flame of color (from the Ritual of Jewels Degree Ritual) is: "that dear love of comrades which displays itself not only to those who wear our badge, but extends itself in consideration and enjoyment to all fellow beings; that warm and pulsing flow without which life is a barren waste, a lone and arid desert." And from the Pledge Ritual: "The fellowship of BSF -- and the first great lesson of its sisterhood -- is LOVE." I placed 9 of our sorority traditions in this color category, more than any other.

1. We address one another by our given name. This applies in letters as well as in conversations.

2. Membership is by invitation only

3. Rushing - periodic rushes to obtain new members (March and October are International Rush months). Rushing is a tradition in order to maintain membership strength so we can continue to do and enjoy all the fun and rewarding things we do!

4. Our sweetest tradition is passing a box of candy to our chapter sisters to announce an engagement or marriage. [Adapt it to sharing news of an upcoming birth, children's engagements, birth of grandchildren, and any reason to share exciting, wonderful news with each other.]

5. Our most beautiful tradition is our yellow rose, the flower of BSF. Along with a card, it is sent to a sister as an expression of sympathy, when she has an illness, or for whatever reason you deem appropriate, i.e., congratulations, thank you, birth, for no reason other than to celebrate the friendship you share!

6. If there is a new chapter in your city, tradition has it that the new chapter is to be entertained by its immediate predecessor in the city.

7. Entertaining your sister chapter (if there are several chapters in your area or within your council) to promote understanding, friendship and inter-chapter harmony within your BSF community.

8. Outgoing President is presented with a gift (usually a gavel guard) in appreciation of her service.

9. BSF's visiting chapters in other cities are accepted as sisters and are given any assistance possible in meeting other members

 *what your hostesses are doing at this convention
 *inviting, accepting, helping, assisting Transferees

 Imagine the loss a member can feel during a transfer, especially when contact is not made by chapters or councils advised by the International Office of the transferee's existence. The Chapter VP or CC Contact Chairman are the ones usually responsible for doing this on behalf of their chapters and city councils.

There is a wonderful story about one transferee's experience. Her husband was transferred with his job on the east coast to a new office on the west coast. She contacted the International Office of her pending move, specifically indicating the date she and her family planned to arrive at their new home. The International Office then contacted the members in that particular area. As this member, her husband and two school-aged children drove across country, they decided to stop and visit at several historical places which caused them to arrive at their new home a few days later than originally planned.

When they drove into the driveway of their new home, this transferee said she would never forget what her eyes first saw. On the door was a beautiful yellow rose tied with the black and gold ribbons of Beta Sigma Phi! It was something familiar in a new, strange place. Attached to the ribbon was a note that said, "Welcome home!" The name, address and phone number of the welcoming Beta Sigma Phi sister was written on the back with the message: "Please call me at your convenience! I'll be waiting to hear from you!"

Unbeknownst to the transferee until months later, this particular chapter Vice President checked every morning to see if the transferee had arrived. Every day that passed, she replaced that yellow rose with a fresh one until the day the transferee arrived! Can you imagine how that transferee and her family must have felt when they drove into the driveway of their new home, not knowing anyone, being totally unfamiliar with what was to be their new home territory and find this gracious act of sisterly love and fellowship?

There is no greater tribute to the fellowship of Beta Sigma Phi and our sisterhood than this.

 Friendship is the Golden Key to the hearts of others. It seems to me many women, regardless of age, are seeking what we in Beta Sigma Phi have to offer. My question to you is how aware are you of these women and their need to connect? New members are 'out there' and we have what will appeal to them! We've cornered-the-market, so to speak, on what they are searching for. I believe we need to apply more effort ourselves to find them and invite them to join us.

 Some believe our country's economic situation right now affects our growth in Beta Sigma Phi. Perhaps they are right in thinking this. I don't know. However, I do know that Walter W. Ross founded our organization in 1931 when the United States was in the throes of the worst depression in history! Anxiety ran high. Money was short. Who would want to spend it on something that could not be held in the hand, whose values from the beginning were largely spiritual? Our Founder put his belief to the test thinking that those who seek wider knowledge, deeper culture and the comforting warmth of close and lasting friendships need these things even more urgently when times are tough. He was right! When put to the test, his beliefs were immediately and steadily successful. It seems to me, now, just as it must have then, people need each other even more and there are thousands of women 'out there' searching to share with us our treasured gifts of Life, Learning and Friendship.

 It has been said before and perhaps we need to take it a little more to heart. We are our own best publicity! We need to get the word out! Open up! Get out there and find those new members! They are out there just waiting to be found! Invite those who are searching for what we have to offer and then offer them what was first offered you. It's magic! It will work! It is Beta Sigma Phi!!! Here is something to say to them:

 " We build walls with our everyday routines
 And cram-it-all-in-schedules.
 Walls that make nasty habit of separating us from our dreams.
 But, what if there were no walls?
 What if there were ways to break straight through to your dreams?
 There is.
 All you need is a chapter with the right friends.
 Beta Sigma Phi is your source
 It can provide you with far reaching opportunities and experiences.
 Walk this way with us.
 . . And watch the walls come tumbling down!"

Orange: Ray of that Flame shall be Loyalty

 I placed 7 of our traditions with the color orange, our color of Loyalty, "that earnestness of unswerving purpose which accepts every result without discouragement and keeps us true and steadfast in an obligation." I refer to it as the glue that keeps us together.

1. We do not permit non-members to wear our badge (sorority pin).

2. We know the significance of our badge ... and wear our pins!

  • Wear them with pride and respect for your achievements.
  • The pledge pin and degree pins are worn over your heart. Your pin is an emblem of membership in our sisterhood, and is not considered a piece of jewelry.
  • The best guide to wearing your pin: Wear it when you are proud of what you are doing, with how you look and when you are with your companions!
  • The only rule and most important thing to remember is your degree pin is to be placed over your heart and worn above all others.

3. Rushing - is a statement of loyalty to our sisterhood.

4. Pledge Training - One member very eloquently stated that once she brought in another member to BSF, she had the desire to do all she could to make her enjoy the sorority she loves and believes in - which must be getting close to the 'Sweetness of Spirit' we refer to in our Closing Ritual.

 Pledge Training is the all-important first step that assures new members of achieving the most enjoyment from their membership and that they will be contributing members. It is a responsibility we owe them. "Because a friend said 'Come with me,' we, too, were privileged to share the circle. And because we shared, we learned. And we learned that many roads are open to us, roads to what is Good, roads to what is True, roads to what is Beautiful."

5. Founder's Day - April 30th - This is our most important tradition where we remember our Founder, honor our beginnings, celebrate our achievements and look forward to the future!

6. Chapter Anniversary - The celebration of your chapter's installation. Plan a birthday party ... and bring gifts:
 *for those less fortunate
 *for children's hospital wards, or lonely adults in retirement facilities (make favors to give them)
 *or, bring chapter supplies to your chapter (candles, stamps, ritual or social supplies)

7. Rituals. Our BSF rituals are an established form of ceremony. They are filled with symbolic representations of the spirit of our sisterhood and of the determination of the members to improve themselves and in this way, make a better world.
 *Prepare. .practice. .polish. .perfect them!
 *They are part of our rich heritage and through the years, bind and bound us together.

Some years ago there was a new member of Beta Sigma Phi that was the kind of member we would all love to have in our chapters. She lit-up the room with her smile and never knew a stranger! Everyone loved her and she loved Beta Sigma Phi! She had been working very hard memorizing the Opening and Closing Rituals, getting ready for the Pledge Test scheduled for later in the week. Several days before she was to take the test, she was involved in a terrible automobile accident and was not expected to live.

Several days passed. Her vital signs stabilized. Her chapter sisters talked, and wondered ... Would it be possible to go ahead and give her the Ritual of Jewels degree? Her parents knew how much she had been looking forward to it. Permission to do so was given by the doctors and hospital staff and her family agreed.

The members set-up the ritual table in the hospital room, using the portable table at the end of the bed as the ritual table itself. They placed the satin ritual cloth on top, and amidst yellow roses, candlelight and the black and gold of Beta Sigma Phi, they gave one of their newest sisters the Ritual of Jewels degree. An International representative happened to be visiting in that particular town and members of the chapter asked if she would read the ritual, which she did. She said that night the rituals of Beta Sigma Phi suddenly took on greater meaning.

Some months later, this same member walked into the International Office and asked to visit with the International rep who had read the ritual to "a member in the hospital not long ago." She proceeded to share with her that she was indeed aware of all that was going on that particular night those many months ago. She had heard the words of the Ritual and just knew she had to get better! She didn't want to let her friends and chapter sisters down. She wanted to be a part of something bigger! She knew that night she was going to survive and be all right!

 Loyalty is what sticks-us-together!
 It means being there when you promised. .and when you didn't!
 It means standing up for, with and by your sisters, your chapter, your organization.
 Loyalty makes the commitment.
 Loyalty allows us to see our sisters as they really are and as they mean to be in spite of how they sometimes appear.

Yellow: Ray of that Flame shall be Vision

 The color yellow comes next. The yellow of our Flame is Vision ... "Which gives courage enthusiasm by the lifting of self out of self, the seeing by self beyond self, that attribute which is 'the perception of things hoped for, the assurance of things not seen.'"

 Our yellow colored traditions number 5.

1. Knowing and understanding our Greek letters. (Bios, Sophia, Philos are the Greek components to Life, Learning and Friendship. The first letters of these three Greek words are Beta, Sigma and Phi.)

2. Rushing - It takes vision to look ahead and plan for the future.

3. As Membership Chairman, the chapter Vice President reports the suggested goal for adding new members on or before the second meeting in September and the second meeting in February, prior to International Rush months. Hers is the most important committee in the chapter and she is to report at every meeting.

4. Beginning Day - is our traditional opening of fall meetings;BSF's rally day!

5. Chapter yearbooks - outline events scheduled through the year; and contain essential member information.

 We highlight our friends with Vision when we know what they meant, not what they said; when we know how great their love, though not spoken.

 To succeed and accomplish what we want in BSF, regardless of the activity or endeavor, and to make our chapter the one everyone wants to belong to, we need Vision!

 Our Founder's Vision is being fulfilled here this weekend, at this moment.

 We need insight to recognize the BEST in others and in ourselves!

 We need the yellow color of Vision to take a chance!

Blue: Ray of that Flame shall be Humility

 The color blue is our Flame of Humility..."that sense of proportion which makes us meek in the presence of the miracle of Being, that sense of honor which causes us to seek nothing for ourselves, and when we have done a favor for another to put a seal upon our lips and forget what we have done." Its giving up pride and putting your best foot forward.

 I placed 4 of our traditions in the blue category:

1. Members are known by their: Graciousness, charm, poise, self-expression, friendliness, loyalty, leadership, appreciation of the finer things in life

2. Rushing

3. A pledge may choose any member (one who has received the RJ degree or higher) to be her sorority mother ... who acts as her guide. In the Pledge Ritual we hear: "The flaming Torch is the light of learning, a guide, meaning that YOU are guided by the light of learning and are yourself a guide to others . . ."

 To do this well and successfully requires a measure of humility.

4. Mother's Day

 Imagine taking a walk on a bright, sunny, blue-sky-with-no-clouds-day. You notice a rock lying in your path. It looks interesting, so you pick-it-up. You take it home and wash it. You polish it and it soon takes on a beautiful, sparkling glow. Beta Sigma Phi does this for us, too! Just look around and see those smiles!!!

 When we make time for others, bring to membership or share time with a sister, we bring out the best in her and in ourselves.

 "I want nothing from you except yourself. I accept you. I need you as my friend. And in doing so, we realize we cannot and do not walk alone."

Violet: Ray of that Flame shall be Service

 Violet, our color for Service. "A component of Humility and Courage, service is that gift of yourself to life, that performance of duty which lightens the burdens of another and lightens the darkness of yourself for 'in loyal and loving service to others the love of self is forgotten.'"

 Two significant traditions are in this category:

1. Rushing

2. Pledge Training - It's a service we owe and present to our pledges, to share with them how we do things, teach them our traditions, and show them how to be Beta Sigma Phis!

To know what to do is . . . wisdom.

To know how to do it is . . . skill.

To do a thing as it should be done is . . . Service !

 Service - that gift of yourself to life!

Red: Ray of that Flame shall be Courage

 Interestingly, I placed only one tradition in our red color of Courage. It is the all-important one if BSF is to continue through the coming years. It is surely in a class by itself because it is what will insure the future for us!

1. Rushing! You'll agree it takes a great measure of courage to rush and do it well, but just look around you to see the results! It's always worth the effort we give to it! Had your chapter or city council not rushed, you wouldn't be here now enjoying this great convention weekend!

 It seems to me we need the color red in order to practice and cultivate each of our sorority traditions because it makes us "fearless and dauntless in pursuit of our ideal, that courage before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish, that virtue without which nothing is achieved and for want of which talent is wasted." It is what assures success in all the others!

 Courage always makes me think about stardust! And in today's world there is much dust that needs to be transmuted ... into stardust!

 Shortly after the terrorist attacks last September, I was preparing an address for the members at the West Virginia convention Bill and I were invited to attend. As I was thinking about what I wanted to say, I mentioned to Bill that I wished there was something I could say to the members that would make them feel good, feel better, feel assured that all would be okay in our newly changed world. I was searching for something to say that would assure them they did indeed have something inside themselves they could depend on to see them through the weeks, months, years ahead. In his inspiring-and-incomparable-Bill-Ross-way, he looked at me and said, "They do have something. They know it. They practice it. They live it, for they have the red of courage . . the yellow of vision . . the blue of humility . . the orange of loyalty . . the green of fellowship . . the violet of service." I'll never forget him saying that, and I hope you will remember it, too.

  •  Which traditions do you enjoy most in your chapter? Why?
  •  Are there any traditions your chapter has neglected that you wish to renew?
  •  Discuss traditions you've heard about in other chapters. Would you like to adopt them in your own chapter?
  •  Talk with other members in other chapters. Share with each other those traditions your own chapter honors. Then take back some of their fun and new ideas to your chapter sisters.
  •  Are there any other or new traditions you've heard about that you think would be good to establish in your own chapter or city council?
  •  Do you have a reasonable dress code? Is it ever a problem? Discuss it together!

 Tradition is not only what comes to us before, created in the past. It is also what we newly create to become the inheritance of future generations, who will talk about us in their turn. We come from an unseen past and move to an unknown future, from Love into Hope! All our cherished sorority traditions have been handed down through our 71-year history of Beta Sigma Phi. These are the things of which greatness is made. They are yours to enjoy!

 Honor our rich heritage of traditions within your chapters and councils ... and please don't be afraid to use the many colors of Beta Sigma Phi to create new ones!

 You are the artist! You hold the brush !!!

 Signature closing

If you wipe a tear from a weeping eye,
Or lighten a heavy load;
If you help someone who has lost her way
Back to life's busy road;
If you never say, "I can't, I can't,"
But always say, "I'll try," "I will try,"
Then that's when you've transmuted dust into stardust,
That's when you are . . . a Beta Sigma Phi!"

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