“Everyone can be great because anyone can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t even have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve… You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love…” so said the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. This blog is full of stories about great people and organizations who give heart and soul – some in simple ways, others in big, bold strokes. But the outcome is the same. Helping or serving others – contributing time, effort and skill or talent.
I’ve been contributing wherever and whatever I could for many years. From Scouting, to boards of directors for various organizations, fund-raising, administrative work, hands-on with youth groups and the Y, community groups and even a short stint as the chair of my town’s Zoning Board of Appeals (short because I found herding cats was not something I enjoyed or did particularly well). And then one day I came to Rotary.
I attended my first Rotary meeting in Danville, Virginia in 1991. I was visiting one of the company’s offices and the manager said he would like to take me to his Rotary meeting in the morning. Of course I asked the proverbial question, “What’s Rotary?” I was stunned when I meet this energetic, happy group of community leaders at 7 AM the next morning. They were meeting in the Rotary conference room at the local library which they had helped fund and outfit. There was such a sense of camaraderie and commitment that I made a note to myself that if I ever worked and lived in the same place I would find a Rotary Club. (I’ve learned since that you can join where you work OR where you live.)
Why Rotary? I simply love the philosophy of doing good in the world surrounded by others with the same values and commitment. I also love the structure it provides. From financial stewardship, to projects already vetted and with long histories of success, to the ability to follow my own dream or jump on board with someone else’s dream.
Rotary gave me the world of literacy, fighting disease, saving children, feeding the hungry, and promoting peace and understanding…..and all within my abilities. I can read to children at the local library, work at the local Ronald McDonald House, visit those who may be sick or lonely at the local nursing home or raise some funds to buy books or other equipment. I can visit Haiti and explore ways to provide clean water to villages or, as several friends have done, give polio vaccine to children in faraway places. I can encourage economic and community development and the Rotary network spans the globe.
Over the years many organizations have grown from their Rotary beginnings: ShelterBox, Gift of Life, Operation Warm, Pure Water for the World come to mind. There are probably thousands of others that can be traced back to a Rotarian’s dream. Rotary’s history is also something else I celebrate. When I think of the impact Rotary had on the forming of the United Nations and our continuing relationship with the UN I stand in awe.
I don’t always agree with Rotary procedures and policy but I love the fact that I can impact change in the organization. Over the years, I’ve seen many changes and improvements I find respect for others at the heart of Rotary – we are a diverse organization, one of many cultures, religions, ages and vocations.
Yes, there certainly are other service clubs as well as many, many fraternal and community organizations and contributing your time and skill to any of these makes the world a better place. Thank you for all you do.
For me, Rotary’s strong service ideal, the ethics it strives for, its history and the Rotary spirit gives me inspiration, motivation and peace of mind. I hope I given back as much.
To be entirely transparent – I joined Rotary in 1996, served as club president in 2001-2002, 2005-2006, 2014-2015, district governor in 2007-2008 as well as several other positions. Although I rarely write about myself on this blog, I hope others will gain insight into ways to give and do good in the world.