Saturday, July 28, 2012

A match made in AHA (heaven).

Recently, the estimable Greta Christina blogged about who she admires most within the atheist movement: the AHA officers!
"The people in the atheist movement that I look up to the most are the organizers of the local groups, and the student groups...  I am in awe of people who are doing on-the-ground organizing. They are doing an often stressful, often tedious, often thankless job, usually with no compensation, and with very little glory (if any)"
As usual, she's right.
Running an atheist group on a college campus takes a lot of hard work.  Running a good group takes a veritable shitload of hard work, all coming from students who usually don't have a whole lot of spare time on their hands.  Dedication to organizing necessarily comes at the cost of other commitments (e.g. sleeping).  The burden can become too much to handle, and leaders sometimes get burnt out.  All organizers ask themselves, at one time or another, why am I doing this?  Is this the most valuable way to be spending my precious time in college?  Is it worth it?
Here's my answer: Unequivocally, Fuck Yes.


From the AHA constitution, our primary goal is to "Establish a supportive social network for the secular student community at UW-Madison."  Providing a safe place for non-believers of all stripes, especially those who can not yet "come out" to their own family, is clearly one of the most important things we can do.  But AHA is more than just a sanctuary, it's a community.  I think back on my six years of activism, and I realize that the majority of the best friends I've made in these years have come from the pool of awesome people that I've met via atheist groups.  


Beyond purely platonic friendships, it's probably no surprise that a lot of "hookups", however defined, happen within atheist groups.  Yes, I am saying that AHA is a good place to find people to date.  I've witnessed countless relationships develop within my groups - admittedly, some more successful than others.  To name one shining example, I met my own wonderful girlfriend of four years in the Illini Secular Student Alliance, a group we both served as presidents of.  My own is but one love story that surely must be happening all the time across the 350+ affiliates of the Secular Student Alliance.  A few years ago I began to declare, mostly jokingly, that should any couple ever get married as a result of meeting each other in AHA - I would automatically get invited to the wedding.  


That brings us to my friends Sam and Eloise.  They first met at one of AHA's weekly meetings sometime in early 2009.  They made fast friends, perhaps thanks to AHA's traditional post-meeting gatherings at the Rathskeller.  I believe they officially started dating in the spring of 2010, soon after going on an AHA road trip together to a Center for Inquiry conference in Chicago. Fast forward about a year later, and Sam and Eloise were engaged.  


Sam & Eloise:  The first of many AHA weddings?

When I got to see Sam and Eloise get married in New Jersey this summer, it made me happy beyond words. Knowing that my involvement in AHA played some small part in bringing these two people together - is without a doubt one of the proudest accomplishments of my life.
Today, they are leaving Madison to begin a new life together on the east coast.
With love, we bid them farewell.  They will be missed.

It's worth it.

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