To celebrate a friend's November birthday, we traveled to the Twin Cities with three other Ole women. At dinner, we enjoyed the best Chinese food the Twin Cities have to offer. We feasted on homemade ginger ale, steaming chicken dumplings, lettuce wraps, spicy vegetable stir-fry, crispy orange chicken and succulent kung-pao beef.
Our wallets stretched thin, we wearily reached into our purses for our credit cards. After wincing at the bill, we prepared to fork over our cards to the waiter.
What happened next was something none of us could have imagined. Our waiter came over with a smile on his face. "Somebody picked up your tab," he said. "They wanted me to say, "Go Oles! Um Ya Ya.'" It was like something out of a cheesy Meg Ryan movie.
We frantically searched the restaurant for a smiling, familiar face. Though the room was filled with many happily dining people, we knew no one. Who could have been so generous? How did they know we were Oles?
Only one person at our table was wearing Ole attire, and our conversation was not devoted to news on the Hill. Could the St. Olaf lanyards on our wallets have caught the eye of a friendly alum?
Our experience is representative of how the St. Olaf community extends beyond the Hill (a kindhearted former Ole felt the desire to make the day of five unsuspecting women). We have a vast network of alumni who have retained their connection with St. Olaf and are willing to give back in both traditional and untraditional ways.
As current Oles, we should recognize this bond and appreciate the connections that have been forged over the years. Although the school has changed over time, there are some Ole virtues that we hope will never disappear.
After our complimentary dinner, we were overwhelmed with pride in our school. We had never been more happy to be Oles. The experience also filled us with an intense desire to "pay it forward."
As the Hill fills with Norwegian sweaters and lutefisk for Christmas Fest this week, we will be looking for ways to strengthen our bonds with current and past Oles. Maybe we can give them the same feeling that our anonymous benefactor gave to us.
We hope that our story will inspire every Ole follow St. Olaf's tradition of giving. After all, there is nothing more appropriate than Oles helping Oles during the holidays.