One Gracious Act
by Ted Streuli
I can be a little old school when it comes to media. I read The New York Times online, as well as The Oklahoman, The Journal Record, The Atlantic, The New Yorker and The Edmond Sun, but I also read the Sun in print. And while I read Presbyterians Today online, I always read The Rotarian in print. Every month, I find a little something that was worth the read.
In the November issue, David Sarasohn’s wrote about the enduring value of kindness.
“There’s a reason we remember great kindness,” he wrote. “It’s not that people are keeping accounts and preparing to repay them. In a transactional world, a luminous kindness is a combination of the act and the time, and that produces something beyond evaluation.”
One thing electronic media doesn’t do as well as print is placement. In the magazine, Sarasohn’s essay on pages 21 and 22 is immediately followed by Nancy Sheperson’s story about bringing new members in Rotary on pages 23 through 25. It might be a mere accident — I can tell you after 30 years of newspapering that every decision about story placement is not necessarily the result of thoughtful planning but often the product of story length and the space available on a given page — but if Sheperson followed Sarasohn by design, editor-in-chief John Rezek deserves a tip of the hat.
Sheperson admonishes clubs that don’t pursue the membership leads provided by the district, arguing that while the parent organization may lead the person to the Four-Way Test, they can’t make them recite it. In other words, a potential member at the door is merely an opportunity for a club to connect.
“Making people feel welcome and valued from the first phone call is the best way to persuade them to join you,” Sheperson wrote.
To be welcoming, to take an interest in the individual, to bother to find out what might attract that person to Rotary and to engage him in a way that is meaningful and enjoyable to him, is up to the club.
I am a third-time Rotarian; I was a member of the Russian River Rotary Club in District 5130 in the late 1980s, then a member of the Alvin Rotary Club in District 5890 in the 1990s before joining Club 29 in January 2017. This has been my most enthusiastic Rotary experience for two reasons: President Ann’s initiative to broaden Club 29’s awareness of everything Rotary has to offer has been inspirational and, more importantly, I feel valued. I serve on five non-profit boards and one advisory board. The one for which I do the least makes me feel as though every thing I do is of great value to them but the one I spend the most time on now leaves me feeling as though my contributions have little significance and I am considering cutting my term short.
No organization can be greater than the sum of its members. I am more moved by President Ann’s gift of a kidney to her brother, Marion Paden’s willingness to drive an elderly friend to my fundraiser, Russ Florence’s help with a birthday gift for someone he doesn’t know, and a sentence of gratitude from Wes Milburn about the newsletter committee than by any amount of money we might raise.
“The kindnesses that stay with you, the ones that light your life for years to come,” Sarasohn wrote, ”don’t involve the bestowing of stuff.”
Whether Club 29 is the largest Rotary club in the world, or the U.S., or even Oklahoma, is only important if measured by how much kindness it allows us to spread in our community, how much service we can perform. And it is that kindness at the door, the buffet line, the lunch table, that ensures Club 29’s health and growth because that is precisely, Sheperdson suggests, what makes people want to become one of us.
As Sarasohn contends, one gracious act can resonate for a lifetime.