River Love

If you were to walk down the street and say “river love” to every person you encountered, most people would probably look at you like you were crazy. In fact, you would receive many looks as if you had a piece of pizza glued to your forehead. However if you were to say “river love” to a University of Dayton River Steward, you would get a response nothing short of a gleaming smile and bright remarks. The origin of the phrase is unknown to me, but the meaning resonates with me, a River Steward, quite well. It is a phrase signifying the extraordinary experience shared within the program. River Stewards, a 3-year multidisciplinary program focused on service projects and leadership development through the University of Dayton’s Fitz Center, share a strong connection with each other and particularly amongst the individuals in each cohort (a group of around 20 undergraduate students from the same class). This bond stems from an annual 5-day orientation the week before fall classes begin.

As a junior this year, I experienced my second orientation last week. I knew if my second orientation was anywhere near as good as the first, I was in for one hell of a week. And merciful Neptune, let me tell you, it certainly was. Unfortunately I cannot detail everything about the week as I fear I will ramble on uncontrollably about my love for my fellow Stewards, the program’s future, and the river itself, but I will briefly describe one event of the week.

On Tuesday we kayaked down a beautiful, winding 9-mile stretch of the Great Miami River. All cohorts float together- pondering what is in store for the upcoming year. Each twist and turn of the river required us to work together to pass through safely. Communication proves to be as important as the air we breathe and the water we float upon. While conversing with fellow Stewards on the river, it is not uncommon to fall into hour-long profound and riveting conversations. Throughout the trip we also experienced spurts of pouring rain. As I sat in my boat looking out into the rain and paddles moving in unison, I could not stop the smile that slowly took me over. Enjoying such a day with people who genuinely want to improve their community is beyond words. I cannot explain how blessed I feel to be in this program with such bona fide people. That, my friends, is river love. 

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