Written By Dave Fleming
“Sameness” hardly seems like the most inappropriate word to describe anything associated with the recent Rotary International Convention in Toronto. There were Rotary delegates from so many different countries and cultures that it took literally a half hour for the flags of each country to be paraded across the stage. Everyone seemed so different. Yet the Rotary symbol next to their names and club locations became a uniting force of tremendous power and scope.
Men and women were attired in every manner of dress from summer casual Western wear to formal ceremonial dress from the most exotic nations on earth, to business suits tailored in New York, Singapore, Moscow, Osaka, Mexico City, Sydney, London, Buenos Aires and beyond. More than 140 languages were spoken among the 40,000 people in the seats all around us.
These were no ordinary people. Those of us who have attended large business conferences are familiar with the diverse nature of participants. Some are dedicated, friendly and helpful while others can be rude, brusque, and angry. Some might look you in the eye but many others will not.
At this gathering, the sense that one was among people who are crystal clear about their life priorities, about the value of all people, about what it means to live by a code of integrity, and how our lives are fulfilled in a measure equal to our service to humankind, was absolutely palpable. That translated on a personal level into smiles from strangers, friendly greetings from people we had never met, doors held open, helping hands, and a genuine sense of peace and positiveness.
Those who have attended RI conventions in other cities and at other times have told me how “inspiring” the event is. I assumed that they meant that the sessions and speakers were inspirational. In many cases they were. But it was this indescribable sense, that one is among people whose fundamental goodness and selflessness is shaping the future of our world, that really made the engagement unique in my life experience.
The message I am bringing back to my service in Wilmington is that we, each of us, are much more than “members” of a club. We are Rotarians. That means a great deal all around the world and right here in Wilmington. It instantly identifies us as people of goodwill, of dedication to the improvement of our world for ourselves and for others, and as people who understand that if it is to be, it is up to me.