I am not a member of Rotary, but I have occasion to be among Rotarians. Last night was such a night.
Until Dan joined Rotary several years ago, my impression of Rotary resided in the same place in my brain that housed memories of going to Kiwanis club meetings with my Grandpa. That meant heading to a stately hotel banquet room at noon, sitting over lunch for a couple hours with a lot of other grandpas, kicking back a few martinis (Shirley Temples for me), and going home. I am guessing that that is not a proper view of Kiwanis today, but it certainly has nothing to do with Rotary.
I don’t want to go into a big history lesson, but Rotary has been in existence for more than 100 years, has clubs in each continent, and does good everywhere. Rotarians are men and women, young and old, prosperous and not. The tie that binds every Rotarian is the desire to make the world a better place. They do that through projects and through travel. A Rotarian can go anywhere in the world, find a Rotary meeting, and know that they will have a place of welcome. Club meeting usually involve some kind of knowledge booster, whether it is a speaker or some other kind of demonstration. Some of the money clubs raise, sends non-Rotarians on international travels to help them understand the world and Rotary better. We have hosted visitors from India, Brazil and South Africa in our house – each chosen by their local Rotary club to come to the Midwest of the United States to learn about what life is like here and teach us what their life is like. We also feel that we had a part in getting our own Ancillary Adams being chosen to travel to South Africa to learn and teach.
The foci of Rotary’s services are many, but there are some touchstones that carry throughout the world. One of those is the eradication of polio. In 1985 Rotary decided that it would be the engine that could run down and eliminate the last case of polio. Millions of dollars have been spent to produce vaccine, educate populations, and vaccinate the unvaccinated. The Bill and Melinda Gates foundation joined Rotary in their cause, recognizing that the Rotary effort was working and nothing that they could do would improve upon the Rotary plan. Just recently, India was removed from the list of four countries that continue to have endemic polio. Only three more. Think about that.
Yesterday, Dan picked me up from work and we headed over to the home of one of his Rotary club mates. We walked in the door and were greeted with offers of Mardi Gras beads – for a small donation and a chance to win a prize. (They rarely miss a chance to raise a few more dollars). There was wine, beer and some delicious food. Some items auctioned off – all donated by members. I did not win the mardi gras bead contest, nor any auction. Sister Linda from Cristo Rey High School explained and showed us how the money that was brought in that night would buy dorm room and college supplies for the seventy-five new graduates from the school. She also thanked the many members who spend time at the school mentoring the kids as they prepare to make college choices. Once again, it was clear that the support of Rotary is not just the dollars raised. Almost always, dollars come along with volunteer hours and real commitment.
With all of that to make you feel good about the night, you get the bonus that this is a fun group of people! No one there does not want to be there. No one there is not interested in what you may have to say. There is joking and laughter. It is what gathering for a common purpose should be. It was a wonderful way to end my work week.