A Cog in the Wheel of Rotary
by Vered Harris
When I attended my first Rotary orientation in 2013 I remember watching a video that welcomed us as “cogs in the wheel of Rotary.” To be fair, maybe it said that we were not just cogs in the wheel of Rotary and I only tuned in to hear the second part of the message. Sitting in the room of high achieving professionals striving to improve our society, the humbling ego check of being a necessary but individually insignificant cog made me laugh. It reminds me of an old Jewish story about a person who kept two notes in their pockets to be pulled out when they needed them most. In one pocket the note read: For you the world was created. In the other pocket the note read: You are but dust and ashes.
This is a recurring theme for my Rotary experience. I attend the in-person gatherings as much for the informative programs from top leaders in our state as to meet other Rotarians. I feel proud to support the mission of Rotary and to show up. However, despite this pride, prioritizing Tuesday lunch meetings is often the extent of my commitment. At meetings I hear about the important work of others in our Club, see the dedication of our officers, past presidents, and Paul Harris Fellows, as well as the influence of Rotarians improving lives all over the world, and I realize that indeed I am but a cog: a necessary but individually insignificant part of the wheel.
The Rotary wheel in which some of us are cogs and others are spokes has an interesting history. At the 1912 Rotary Convention in Duluth, Minnesota, the Emblem Committee (also funny, like the ads when smartphones were new: There’s an app for that … we are part of a proud tradition in which: There’s a committee for that) explained, “The emblem consists of the basic principle of a wheel with gears cut on the outer edge. … The spokes are to be so designed as to indicate strength; the object of the gears, or cogs, being two-fold: First to relieve the plainness of the design, and Second, to symbolize power.”1
To personalize this description to our Club: as I have watched our Club diversify it is obvious that as individual members we relieve the plainness of design, and as I see the successes of our Club it is apparent that together we are powerful. While describing Club members as cogs still gives me a giggle, it also brings me joy to see how apt the description is for each of us doing what we can to keep this Rotary wheel spinning.