Being someone in a Rotary Club isn’t for everyone. Aside from whatever standards that a Club may have, there are claims for treasure and time that are in increasingly strong demand in our westernized lives. Just the idea of committing to being at a particular location at the same time almost every week seems unmanageable if not undesirable. For most, there’s the equally unusual commitment to eating in the same place 40 or 50 times a year. And, there’s always the risk that you’ll have to be bored for twenty minutes or so by some organization trying to further extract more treasure from your pocket.
Seems like a lot to overcome. So why do we do it? For many of us, this is unlike almost anything else in our lives. Even a similar commitment to a religious organization for many is a memory from our youth. If one steps back and looks at all our acquaintances, aside from work there are precious few comparable circumstances in their lives. Perhaps a friend likes to sing, so they go to choir practice every week. And even the most avid non-professional golfer isn’t on a green forty times a year. Otherwise, what else do we do that demands so much from our lives, even without the additional strains on time that Rotary projects heap on top of this base of meetings?
Perhaps a look at our singing friend is an insight to begin to answer the question. There is something inside that needs to get out. There is a love for doing something that can be best done with others. They enjoy spending time with people who value the same thing. They learn and improve because of the others in the group. The final performance is an achievement that couldn’t been had almost any other way, and the preparation for it was a collaborative effort that was enjoyable as well. There is an itch that couldn’t be scratched as well any other way.
If you have service in your heart, if you are a person who has a desire to give of yourself and make the world a bit better, how many outlets do you have? There are certainly a wide variety of charitably focused organizations in most larger communities, not to mention many church groups with outreach programs, and these usually come without all that a Rotary Club asks. They also come without all that a Rotary Club can give.
The comparable service clubs come closest to duplicating Rotary, but one could argue that they just aren’t on the same level. In many communities, Rotary is still the premier group for professionals. The label of being a Rotarian seems to be more impressive, and the focus of Rotary broader. Certainly, internationally, the reputation and influence of Rotary carries the most weight and lends an instant creditability to an idea or project. One can take genuine pride in being a pin-wearing member of a 113 year-old organization with our track record for success.
As we go about our daily lives, many of us meet a lot of people. But how often do you come across someone else who believes in Service Above Self, regularly practices it, has a diverse background in profession, belief, and politics, and has a genuine interest in being your friend? Yet in a Rotary Club almost anywhere in the world, you can meet a roomful of them. Few other organizations can make a similar claim, and being a member of one, especially an active and contributing participant in one, is another strong answer to our original question.
A good Rotary Club regularly challenges you to do something more. Certainly, many of these tasks exist outside the Club, but an advantage of a club is having them served up to you, with the bonus of having friends ready to be alongside you. And if you want to leave your mark on the other side of the world, Rotary is very accommodating and practiced. Many of us forget how powerful our network is around the world.
We tend to be busy people. Being in a Rotary Club is a constant reminder that service to others is a part of our lives that should not be forgotten. We often need the prodding to step out of our own routines; without the external push we would probably do so less and less. And as we look across the meeting room, we see other people who are doing admirable things for others, reinforcing the value of a commitment to service. We need that too.
For many of us, being a Rotarian is the easiest way to fully be who we want to be. Without this vital connection, too often an important part of our lives would go undernourished if not unfed. There would be a lack that would make us less of the person we want to be. We often think about what Rotary does for others. But it is really first about what Rotary does for us. It gives us an enjoyable opportunity to be more fully human as we ourselves define it. The many Avenues of Service that have been developed over the last century by our fellow Rotarians provides a person with prospects for involvement with people near and far that is unmatched in a world of increasingly complex demands.
Why be a Rotarian? How can you not?