Burgers by Law, Friendship by Choice

The creed of the Georgetown University Grilling Society (GUGS) says, “Beneath the trees which line the grounds of Georgetown, the Georgetown University Grilling Society strives to maintain the fundamental values of mankind through bonds and friendships forged in the very fires upon which we cook.” At first, it may sound a little bit odd, but those very fires and friendships have defined my time at Georgetown.

In the every day hustle and bustle on campus, I have found it hard to be vulnerable and reveal my weaknesses and quirks to others. However, that is not the case on Fridays. As soon as the grills are in Red Square, the spot becomes home. Over the last four years, GUGS has given me a place where I can completely and totally be myself.

At the surface level, we make burgers for the Georgetown community. But, as I have discovered over the last four years, there is actually so much more to it. It takes quite a bit of time to prepare the perfect burger, and in that time, ample conversation takes place. It may be inconsequential conversation, just catching up on the week that’s gone by, but more often than not, these conversations transcend the mundane and become much deeper, grappling with the many challenges that come with life.

There have been many weeks where I have found myself struggling to see the positive side of things, especially after strings of long nights in Lau, exams that seemed to get the best of me, rejection from clubs and jobs — but time and time again, the simple fact that there is a Friday on the horizon has seemed to get me through the week. At a school where it often becomes too easy to be consumed by the competition for good grades and internships, grills have provided such a welcome respite. I think it is important to find a tight-knit community here, a place where you can be yourself and free from the perceptions of others. I also wish that we, as a Georgetown community, were more willing to be open and honest with each other, and I am grateful that my involvement in GUGS has allowed me to do just that.

Last fall, I got a second-degree burn on my left hand after making pulled pork on the grill. The burn came after a week that can only be described as hellish — midterms in every class, job info sessions, work and other commitments made me load up on caffeine and frantically power through the week. On Friday, I was running late and burned my hand because I was rushing. I still eventually made it to the grill, and it was there that I was told to slow down, take it easy — and I actually listened. I was still running in overdrive and overwhelmed by everything going on. I did not want people to see that I was struggling, yet my burned hand made it visible.

As my hand healed, I could not just do it all myself — I could barely hold a pen, let alone carry anything or grill on a Friday. That vulnerability was profound but also very rewarding. When I had to ask for help, numerous people answered the call. In particular, everyone in GUGS went out of their way to ask how I was doing and see how they could help.

We became friends over burgers, but in a time of challenges, they were the first to answer my calls for help without expecting anything in return. Most importantly, they showed me that I could be myself and there would always be people to support me, even when I reeked of charcoal. While I do not have any Friday grills left, I am comforted by the fact that for so many other Hoyas, there will be many more Friday grills ahead and the chance to enjoy a burger and some conversation on a beautiful afternoon.

Mary Bacon is a senior in the College.

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