We all know that “service above self” is the motto of Rotary. For all my years as a Rotarian, I thought I had a very good understanding about what that motto really means, and the depth of it. However, a few weeks ago, I witnessed how the service above self of just one person can have an exponential impact on the lives of multiple families, and over multiple generations.
This story begins as I was growing up 25 years ago as a Boy Scout. Scouting, as many youth organizations do, relies heavily on the service of numerous volunteers. These volunteers get to experience serving their communities in a way that shows an immediate impact. This kind of immediate payoff keeps volunteers coming back year after year. A few weeks back, while sadly attending the funeral of the man who served as the Scoutmaster in my childhood, I got to see the vast reach of that seemingly simple service.
Mr. Jackson was a giant of a man who spent his weekends mentoring the youth of Northwest Oklahoma City. At the time, it was all disguised as camping and advancing through the ranks of
scouting. However, it was much more than that. He was teaching us how to make decisions, survive in the wild, build teams, be leaders and also how to mentor those below us. (To be fair,
there were many adult leaders in our troop, and they each had an impact on our lives. This story, however, is about Mr. Jackson.)
At his funeral, I took a moment to look around the church. I saw more than 100 men who were also there to celebrate the life of their former scoutmaster, each of them having their own stories
and lasting impressions. They were all there to celebrate, remember, and to say goodbye to the man who taught them to be leaders, to serve others, and to leave anywhere they went better
than they found it. When I looked even closer, I saw educators, business owners, attorneys, doctors, dentists, non-profit executives, law enforcement officers, and politicians. It seemed like
every community leader you could imagine was there. In these same faces, you also saw parents. Scout parents. Many of which are currently serving as scout leaders for their own
children. I saw where this one man’s service had transpired into an entire generation of leaders who put service above self. Beyond that, this generation has already begun spreading those
same values, with huge, broad strokes, on to the next generation.
It was at that moment that I realized that our simple Rotary motto carries more weight than I had ever realized. We have the opportunity to impact not only the immediate areas in which we
serve, but entire communities, entire families, and even multiple generations. The impact is exponential! Service above self has the ability to snowball, constantly growing and spreading as
it rolls downhill, into the changes we all want to see. How can each of us start that kind of effect on the lives of others? What are we showing the next generation or even the next two
generations about service and the impact of our actions?
I would challenge each of you to look beyond what we do as an act of service and rather live like this Scout leader who made service above self, his legacy.