One could say that I’m a natural Rotarian because I have a tendency to adopt causes and finagle until I have a positive impact on them. What does not come naturally to me is the concept of always putting service above one’s self. I’ll have to grow into that.
As has happened to me on many occasions, here among others aiming to meet that goal I find myself straining to think of ways that I can. But my natural tendency kicks like a horse spooked by gunshot. So my brain starts to tack and gybe, and call out, Mind your head! while the sails billow and I strain for fair winds and a following sea.
When the Stars and Stripes unfurled today at the opening ceremonies of the Rotary International Convention, I stood and placed my hand on my heart. The moment moved me, even though I knew that the entire affair had already been done once since we had the second seating. Presumably the past RI President had already presented her one million dollar contribution and received her honorary plaque. But still: she kindly came to the stage and did it for the second half of the gathered faithful; and still: we applauded.
My traveling companion has more energy at 81 than I had at 21. She slows her pace for me, and scurries ahead to reconnoiter. Her program guide tells us where we need to be while mine stays in the pocket of my bag where I crammed it. We’ve only finished one day, with three to come.
I’m looking forward to hearing Bill Gates talk about the mutual pledge our two foundations have made to eradicate polio. Then I will wander over to the Friendship Hall and look for a man from Nigeria whom I met at the shuttle stop, to hear more about the project that he and his fellow Rotarians have underway in Lagos. A man from California invited me to his booth to learn about his Educational Foundation. Everywhere, smiling faces of people just as willing to talk of their home towns as the folks whom I have already met will reach to shake my hand and read my name tag.
And we will represent, my companion and I. We will speak of our club, the Waldo Brookside Rotary Club, with its young folks and its earnest dedication to our neighborhood. From time to time, the swell of souls will overwhelm me. I will find a bench, and lower my body. I will close my eyes and let myself ease into repose. When I feel refreshed, I will rise and wander back towards the multitude to hear about the good works of Rotarians around the world.
Because what could possibly be more invigorating than hearing about the ways in which these thousands and thousands of Rotarian have made a difference in their home countries and abroad? What could move my spirit more than hearing all the ways in which they have put service about themselves, in countries with no running water, no paved roads, no electricity, and no doctors? Where children cannot go to school because they have no shoes? Or where young adults leaving foster care need caring adults to hep them make their way, maybe just around the corner from home in Waldo, in Kansas City, Missouri?
It’s the eleventh day of the forty-second month of My Year Without Complaining. Life continues.