Some moments and experiences are difficult to explain. I have told my share of stories that ended with me conceding that you just had to be there. The COR Leadership Retreat is one of those things. On my best day, as a graduate of a top-tier journalism school, I don’t think I can appropriately encapsulate the broad spectrum of emotions, lessons and experiences from those five days in a blog. I will try, but you just had to be there.
The third annual COR Leadership Retreat brought one huge change with it; The group was divided in half and split between Houston and Dallas/Fort Worth. Historically the retreat has started in Houston, moved to DFW and then on to Colorado. The National Staff and Board of Directors decided to try something different by having two smaller, more intimate groups go through professional and leadership development sessions in separate cities.
For the Dallas/Fort Worth group, the smaller group size helped to quickly foster unity and continuity within the group as a whole. Everyone seemed to connect with their brothers in large part because there were fewer men to get to know. They were all on the same page with the same common focus for COR.
All the men were there with a clear desire to develop new friendships with brothers from other chapters and to grow as leaders. It didn’t hurt that the entire group could fit in one 15-passenger van either as we trekked around the metroplex to visit the places of employment of the alumni who hosted sessions in their offices.
The schedule for the week set up the men to connect quickly. After Texas A&M BYX alumnus and Board Member Loren Hsiao led the retreat’s first session at his Northwestern Mutual Office in Allen, Texas, he and his family hosted the brothers at their home.
The evening was the perfect opportunity for the men to lay a foundation relationally for the rest of the trip. Loren, an avid basketball player, organized a four-on-four basketball tournament, which became the main event for the evening. Some brothers played washers with Loren’s sons, threw Frisbees and swam.
Tuesday night looked similar to Monday when Baylor BYX alumnus Todd Tramonte, who owns a real estate company in Plano, taught a session and hosted the men at his house. Todd invited a handful of other Baylor BYX alumni over. These men have managed to maintain their close relationships with each other well after graduation. Some of them are involved at the same church and are part of the same small group.
Todd and the Baylor brothers encouraged the men to invest in the relationships they have in their chapter by sharing how much their friendships mean to them. It was a beautiful and encouraging picture of the lifelong brotherhood and unity under Christ that BYX can produce.
That’s one thing that separates COR from so many other leadership and professional development opportunities: the heart. The numerous alumni went beyond just trying to impart professional wisdom. They were intent on sharing their hearts with the brothers, opening up about their failures and successes as brothers, fathers, husbands and employees. Nothing was off the table, and the authenticity of the session leaders left a mark on the attendants.
Each evening, the attendants had the opportunity to recap the day in their breakout groups. Five attendants and a staff member would get together to talk through what stood out. As the week went on, the men opened up more and more, sharing thoughts and struggles as well as posing challenging questions. I am grateful that I had the opportunity to work with the men in my group.
On Thursday night, the Houston attendants (recap coming Wednesday) traveled to DFW and met the DFW group at the TCU intramural fields for some ultimate frisbee. After a few moments of the groups staring each other down like Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly in “Step Brothers,” they greeted each other with holy kisses, figuratively of course, or was it…
Friday brought with it an opportunity for the attendants to sit under some of the fraternity’s oldest brothers. With that came a wide range of emotions. I swung from choking back tears to laughing uncontrollably over the course of just a few minutes.
The day started with Christian Pinkston, an alumnus of the Alpha Chapter who was a part of one of the first pledge classes. He shared what he has learned over the last year-and-a-half from his two near-death experiences that occurred within 48 hours of each other. Alpha Chapter Founder David Daniels, a pastor in Fort Worth, followed that afternoon. Daniels hit the men with a challenging barrage of wisdom and Scripture, encouraging them to evaluate their theology on many levels.
For the final session before hopping on the bus for an overnight drive to Colorado, TCU Founders Jon Sherman and Kyle Kight spoke on the importance of cultivating relationships with your brothers. The men shared what it has been like to walk through life and hardship together. It’s one thing to hear conceptually about lifelong brotherhood. It’s another to hear from men who have been there for each other through heart surgery and a child’s cancer diagnosis.
But you probably just had to be there.