March 20, 2017

G’Day Fellow Rotarians:

While I’m taking my little vacation I thought I would revisit the sporadic newsletters that I’ve written to you. I must admit, I have not been the most faithful correspondent. I want to start by thanking all of you for your calls, messages, thoughts and prayers while I am recovering from surgery. I cannot emphasize enough how much they mean to me and how uplifting they have been.

When last we met, I was gritting my teeth trying to limp around and conduct one of our meetings. As I lowered myself into my car at the end of the meeting, it was with a grimace. Then I looked around and realized that I had forgotten to pick up my backpack. Yes, that backpack. I pulled myself back out of my car, limped back into the Elks Lodge and found the backpack…but it was empty. The bell and gavel were gone!

Now, ordinarily I would have just laughed that off. Stealing the President’s bell and gavel is a long running joke that started well before I came into the Club. Lots of Clubs do same thing. That’s why I carefully put the bell and gavel back in the backpack as soon as I ring the bell, why I put a burglar alarm on the backpack, schlepped it around through the meetings, etc. etc. It’s a pain in the rear but it’s part of the game. But that day, I just wasn’t in the mood for pranks. I was in a lot of pain and I’d been waiting more than four months for my hip replacements. I was pretty frustrated all the way around. I thought: how unfair; I’m kicking my own ass here to do these meetings and this is my reward?!? I left in a pretty bad mood. I questioned why I should even keep trying to be President. It certainly isn’t for the generous compensation package. I wondered why I kept spending time trying to organize agendas, find projects, run meetings, etc. and in return I got my pocket picked. In general, I threw myself a pretty good little pity party.

Then, I went in for surgery. It really wasn’t that big of a deal; lots of people go through the same thing. Carolyn Cope had just done it. But, as they say, the only minor surgery is surgery done on someone else. Everything went very well and once I woke up in the recovery room, I knew that things were just going to keep getting better.

They have. Almost as soon as I was wheeled into my hospital room, I started getting messages from you guys. Flowers were delivered. Thoughts and prayers were sent along. It tangibly improved my outlook. It elevated my mood (OK, I admit the painkillers helped too). It made me rethink my self-indulgent tantrum about the gavel and the bell. All of the energy you sent me came from us being in the Rotary together. I regretted doubting staying involved in the Rotary. And so I’ve been using my recovery time to think about Rotary: what it is, what it does, what it means and why I do it. I’m hoping some of you might find this useful because, let’s face it, we’ve all had our irritations about the Club, or the time commitments, etc.

So, I thought about the day when we had our party for the migrant children. I thought about the incredible energy in the room and how happy those kids were. That same day, I went to the Encinitas Seniors’ Dance that Marty and Sharon Cooper organize. They give the credit to the Rotary although they basically do it ALL. And I saw more than 50 people; most in their 70’s and up, dancing and laughing. And I thought about the incredible energy in the room and how happy these people were. And I realized that in one short day, I had seen the same light shining in the eyes of those young children and in those senior citizens.  A light that the Rotary made happen. I’m not sure what to call it, but I believe it was love.

And then I thought some more about what Rotary does and how it works. And I realized that the people who invented Rotary were truly geniuses. Because they realized the power of getting good people together to do good things. The Rotary symbol is the Wheel. But it’s not a wheel for rolling smoothly down the street, it’s a wheel to turn gears. A big wheel with a lot of individual cogs. And I thought about those cogs. Each one is different, individual, unique. But they all fit on the wheel and they make the wheel turn. Maybe not so smoothly all the time, but always headed in the right direction.

And I’ve thought about our Club, and its members. I’ll never forget the program that Verne Scholl and Danny Salzhandler put on about their experiences in Viet Nam. While I’ve been laid up, I watched the movie Platoon again. I don’t know how accurate it is but I imagine they got some of it right. I reflected on what Danny and Verne told us. They didn’t emphasize the horror or terror; the pain or the suffering. They talked about the men they served with and the bonds that were created. Somehow, they were able to emphasize the positive aspects of what they had been through. And I realized what special people they are to have come out of that Hell with the attitudes they have.

And I started to feel really, really silly about being miffed over a missing bell and gavel, and the minor inconveniences of Rotary Service. Instead, I thought about how every single time we need volunteers for a project, for community service, for the Home Team, for food donations: the people in our Club step up. I thought about how week after week we recognize Club members who have generously contributed to the Foundation and its good works. They could have taken that money and had a great vacation. Instead, what do they get for it? Another Rotary pin and a round of applause. But we all know they get more out of it than that. I think about the Youth projects we do and I realize that all of us are doing a lot to turn that light on. The list goes on and on. The people in our Club are special people.

Then, I called my dear friend and Rotary mentor: Pete Fitzpatrick. When I called they put me through to the nurses’ station. The nurse said she would try to take him the phone but I shouldn’t count on much, that he probably wouldn’t make much sense. I started to cry.  But then he came on the line and it was Pete all right. He sounded kind of faraway but he was definitely with the program. He knew it was St. Patricks Day. He asked me how the Club was and asked me to make sure to tell everyone hello for him. Pete’s the greatest Rotarian I’ve ever known. He kept telling me he was “coming back” to the Club but I realized that he had never left. Rotary was still in him and he wanted me to know he was still a part of it. It’s important to him. I told him we loved him, and I know he knew I meant it.  I wouldn’t have known Pete if it weren’t for the Rotary and I wouldn’t have ever understood what Rotary really was if Pete hadn’t shown me. And I realized in a fundamental way how meaningful the Rotary experience really is. And that certainly put it all in perspective for me.

So, I tried to come up with a unifying thought for all of this.

There are so many moving parts to Rotary; what makes us all want to be cogs on this big beautiful wheel? What makes it all worthwhile?  And I ended up turning to the greatest poets of my generation: Paul McCartney and John Lennon. One of their best songs is “All You Need is Love”. When you really run that through your head, you see that they are right. But maybe even more pertinent to us as Rotarians and to our Service Above Self, they sang:

“And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.”
And I thought about how much good Pete has done as a Rotarian for more than 50 years, what a great example he has always set. I realized that people Pete has never even met benefitted from his goodwill, generosity and noble spirit. I realized what a great influence he has been on my life, how important he is to our Club. And I think I understood the song a little better. And I realized how truly lucky I am to be a member of the Encinitas Rotary.
So, let your lights shine my fellow Rotarians, let your lights shine. What you put into it, you will get out of it. Every bit of positive energy you can put into this world is a good thing; a worthwhile effort. Make that Wheel turn because it’s always headed in the right direction. Rotary is the vehicle we can all use to make the World a better place. The minor irritations are just that---minor irritations.
But hey Stoney, I still want the bell and gavel back!!
Greg Day, President 2016-2017
Please forward questions and feedback to:
Russell Hampton
National Awards Services Inc.


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