We Are Westmont 2012
Our community here at Westmont is made up of a wide array of different experiences, backgrounds, and identities. This session is geared at taking a deeper glimpse within our community to reflect on who we are as a Westmont community. The goals of this session are to encourage awareness about student diversity, to encourage students to be themselves, and to own their stories. We hope to spark conversations around tough issues like race, gender, faith, and history.
Name: Margo Georghiou
My name is Margo Georghiou , and this, a scarf, is what I wear every Sunday... covering my head. This might not be something you see on a regular basis, but I am a Christian like many of you in this room. I am what many people call "cradle Orthodox." I was born in the United States, but as an infant I was baptized on the island of Cyprus where my mother is from. I was born into a Greek Orthodox family, and, as an adult, when given the decision between Orthodoxy and Protestantism, chose to stick to my roots. Ever since I can remember, church services have been in Greek and there is always a Yiayia (or grandma) who is telling me (and everyone else!) what to do. Orthodoxy, translated literally is "the one way" and is the most ancient form of Christianity one can find. When the original churches joined together, there Orthodoxy began. We follow ancient liturgies and retain time honored traditions. Knowing that all Orthodox churches around the world, whether they are Greek, Russian, Serbian, Ethiopian, or many others, are practicing the exact same religious sacraments and services together, brings an amazing sense of unity.
Now, I always knew I was different. Not every kid has a parent who is not from the United States. Yet being different didn't bother me. I loved sharing about my family history in class and being the only student with my stories. I think the best part was bragging about all the great food I got to eat! When I went into high school, I started to truly embrace my heritage and faith. The feeling of belonging to something bigger than myself was so invigorating. While my culture is an extremely important part of my identity, I strove to make faith the main focus. While competing in national Greek dance competitions was fun, being able to kiss the Bishop's hand and receive the Communion he sanctified was even more meaningful.
Towards the end of high school, it came time to pick a college. Westmont was my first choice. I knew what I was getting into and felt prepared. I had been to Protestant churches before so chapel didn't freak me out or anything. What I wasn't prepared for was the feeling of not being known. No one seemed to know what Orthodoxy was. There have been countless times when a fellow student has asked me "where do you go to church?" "Saint Barbara's Greek Orthodox Church" is always my reply. After answering their inquires about what kind of church it is and why I go there, their response is usually "Oh, so you are basically Catholic right?" No. I'm not "basically Catholic." I felt completely misunderstood. I have friends who don't understand why I wear a head covering. I have professors who have told me they know nothing about my faith. I have had strangers ask me if I was even a Christian at all.
I didn't feel like I belonged here. I was unknown. But I chose not to remain unknown. By sharing bits about myself here and there, I found people who truly wanted to KNOW me. They didn't just find my beliefs and lifestyle interesting, but instead found ME interesting. I was worth someone's time and investment. Slowly I began to be more vulnerable. I invited section-mates to church, had my dorm room blessed by my priest, proudly hung my icons in my room, and prayed in Greek with my close friends. Being vulnerable was really hard and uncomfortable. My best advice is to find a group of safe people you can be open with. For me, this was becoming and RA. Last year I was the RA for Page 2B and I became really close with my staff. It was a really freeing opportunity. I found the community I was looking for in my smaller group of close friends, my staff members, and in being a part of something that was bigger than myself. What truly helped me feel accepted by them were their intentional efforts to understand me. They were not afraid to ask me questions and were willing to come to church with me. My staff members challenged my beliefs by asking me "why?" What worked for me was precisely this: my friends were willing to step out of their comfort zone and into mine.
As I began to find who I was on campus, I discovered who I am in this world. By stepping away from my Mom and family at home, I was given the opportunity to exercise my value system and put it into action. I make the choice every Sunday to go to church because I no longer have a family encouraging me to go. I truly had to think about what I wanted out of my faith and I was out of my comfort zone for the first time. I have learned about myself that yes, I am an Orthodox Christian, but I am also a daughter, a sister, a student, and a friend. I am Greek, I am American, I am Californian, I am Westmont. I am Margo.