There’s something about snow at a southern school that is magical. It’s once-in-a-blue-moon, falling on a random winter day when no one really can predict its arrival. As soon as a few white flurries can be seen floating from outside dorm and library windows, we abandon our textbooks, laptops, and phones and run outside, looking together at the newly bespeckled sky. Snow gives us a reason to pause our daily rat race and simply be, rather than do.
In the last two years, there have been few times we have all enjoyed something together as a campus. Because of the pandemic, we have subconsciously become more sheltered, opting more than we once did to stay inside or remain within our comfortable, unchanging routines. We see the same people and eat with the same people every day, go to the same classes and club meetings, and spend more hours in residence halls than academic buildings. This sheltering of ourselves is oftentimes for the sake of our health (not hanging around people we don’t know does reduce the risk of getting sick), but I think we also have become used to not taking social risks — those that might be necessary to forge meaningful connections on a college campus.
I am definitely guilty of not taking social risks presented to me here at Furman. When the snow first hit and rumors of an all-campus snowball fight on G field spread, I had already played in the snow with my close friends and intended not to go despite its seeming like a once-in-a-lifetime bonding experience. By the prompting of others on my hall later on, however, I trekked to North Village for the event.
Peering behind one of the apartment buildings to an open field of people, I was filled with a sense of relief — it was one of the first times in two years I had seen a large group naturally gather. People from all classes laughing, running around, and playfully pelting snowballs gave a liveliness and fullness to the event that has been so often absent during the pandemic. What I noticed when I arrived was that at first, people formed small cliques with the people they knew scattered around the field. But eventually, someone from one group would throw a snowball at one from another, and over time they began to loosen up and meld together. Eventually, it had become two big mounds: one teeming with athletes and the other with people of Greek organizations and other clubs.
That is until a group of ten from one of the mounds decided to chase someone down from the other while pelting snowballs. This act became a catalyst for war between the two sides as soon after, a person amid the crowd yelled, “ATHLETES VERSUS NARPS!” (NARPS being Non-Athletic Regular People). At this point, about an hour in, the true all-campus snowball fight began, and the rest of the time was characterized by chaos as people felt the freedom to throw snowballs at, laugh with, and talk to whomever they wanted.
I thought it was interesting how three simple words from one person was an act big enough to bridge social barriers. We yearn for broader community, and yet, oftentimes because of a mindset we are conditioned into by the pandemic, we refuse to take the occasional risk necessary to create it. But we must embrace those risks. Join a club, go to an event that will have people you do and don’t know, and reach out to grab a meal with some old or new friends. We complain that it seems like pre-pandemic Furman will never be resurrected. But maybe taking social risks and finding community outside of our routines and the people we know may be the key to bringing Furman back to its former glory.