We hear this often at meetings, events, and programs ... the inevitable question: "what's your Rotary moment?"
Everyone has one.
That moment where it sinks in: this organization is where I'm meant to be. These are the people with whom I want to surround myself. This is the mission I want to support.
Whatever your thoughts are - whatever made you 'drink the Koolaid,' so to speak - it's a memorable one for each of us. It's something that sticks with you forever.
I have several meaningful Rotary moments, but the one I consider to be my Rotary moment is when I decided I wanted to commit to being a member of LA5.
It was at a club meeting. I don't remember the guest speaker's name, but I remember him being a doctor who had built a hospital in South Africa and was working to bring much-needed medical care to an underserved region. At the close of his talk, as with most LA5 meetings, there was a Q&A session. An LA5 member stood up and asked: "What is the one thing your hospital needs most right now." The speaker responded that he had been trying to raise funds to get an x-ray machine for months. Then that Rotarian asked: "How much is the x-ray machine?"
That same Rotarian then encouraged others in the room to join him in contributing funds to get this hospital in South Africa an x-ray machine.
Hands started shooting up all over the room. $1,000 here. $5,000 there. $250. $500. I remember Jennifer Gregg frantically trying to keep up with the collecting the contributions: she was running around with a handheld credit card machine. Swipe. Run. Swipe. Run. Swipe. Shuffle. Collect a check. Run.
This was over ten years ago. I was an event manager living paycheck to paycheck. I raised my hand to grab Jennifer's attention, but I was too embarrassed to say how much I would contribute. I had $25 to give.
After about five or so minutes, our club raised enough money to get that man and his hospital TWO x-ray machines. He was in shock and tears.
I remember feeling so many things, but among all of the emotions, the following stood out to me:
- Complete shock and awe. I couldn't believe this room of people had done such an immensely impactful thing so casually. To me, it was insane. To the members of the club, it seemed like just another Friday.
- That tinge of embarrassment over not being able to contribute a large dollar amount and raise my hand and triumphantly call out how much lingered with me: I knew in that moment that I wanted to one day be one of those people who could proudly give in such a manner.
- I knew that this group of people - those who, without any discussion or debate, would collectively and immediately act to buy two x-ray machines for some villages of strangers across the world - were the people with whom I wanted to surround myself. These people exemplified the type of person I wanted to be.
One more thing I vividly remember.
I must have been sitting at the table with him such that he saw me raise my hand - but on my way out while waiting for our cars at valet, Past President Bob Aldridge thanked me for contributing to the gift of x-rays.
I sheepishly mumbled something in return about how I shouldn't be thanked. I had only given $25. Not much at all.
"It is everything. Every dollar made a difference today and will for years to come. You should be proud of yourself."
I had been coming to Rotary events sporadically for several years at this point without any commitments. I submitted my application the day after this meeting.
Why? Because I had seen people of action exemplified. But moreover, it was made clear to me that I made a difference - regardless of where I was in my life and how much I could give.
So... thank you to the LA5 Rotarians who make every Friday a remarkable moment. And thank you to PP Bob Aldrige for mentoring the next generation - whether you realized what you were doing or not.
Ten+ years later, I still can't quite raise my hand and give as generously as many in our club, but I have found my place where I can feel my intent and my actions making a difference. And I'm still blown away by the generosity, dedication, and impact of this club and its members.