My Rotary - No-one in my family had been in a service club
I wasn't sure what it would be like to be in a service club and whether I would fit in.
During my formative years none of my friends or family have been part of clubs or societies. That is with the exception of a school friend’s parents who were members of The Ancient Order of Foresters - and they were a bit odd to my 15 year old self.
A few years later when in my mid-twenties I went along to a couple of Rotary meetings with a work colleague. He was a member of Atherstone. I have to say I received a very warm welcome and had a couple of enjoyable evenings listening to fascinating speakers. But beyond that I had no idea what Rotary did and neither did I have any reason to get involved.
Wind the clock forward again to my mid-thirties. Now with a family I find myself getting involved with the local scout group and making some firm friends. Two of these also happen to be in Rotary too. I went to a few meetings as a guest, and as before, was made very welcome. This time round I had a little more of an insight into what Rotary is, but not much more. In fact to me, Rotary and Round Table were the same thing. I’ve since learnt they are sort of similar, but definitely not the same organisation.
Over a few months I visited Aldridge Rotary meetings as a guest and began to form an opinion. To be honest it was a culture shock. A group of men (no women members back then) in jackets and ties standing up to say things. Addressing each other with flowery titles. “Immediate Past President” and “Honorary Secretary” to name just two. People at work don’t behave like this, not since the 1950s at any rate, so why do they spend their free time doing this I asked myself.
Looking beyond this arcane facade I began to understand what was really happening. This group of men were engaging in a hobby or pastime that used their talents and skills and getting a great deal of satisfaction. Which is fundamentally why anyone pursues a hobby. Many hobbies are fulfilling for the individual. There’s nothing better that pulling reluctant fish out of a cold river in the depths of winter with frost forming on your digits that poke out of your fingerless gloves if you’re a fisherman.
As a hobby, Rotary is different. I realised that this group of men in jackets and ties were doing things that were of benefit to other people. They were getting a thrill by using their skills and talents to help other people. Like the fisherman, using his skills to catch that legendary whopper and exchanging ideas and swapping tips with fellow anglers. I could see an opportunity for me to learn new things and develop skills. But unlike the angler I wouldn’t be throwing the fruits of my labour back. The fruits of my labour would be enjoyed by other people. That’s a bonus in my view.
Winding the clock forward to the present, I have benefited greatly from being in Rotary. I have grown as an individual. I’ve met some truly inspiring people. I’ve made new friends. I’ve learnt so many new things. I’ve had great fun too.
Rotary isn’t a men only domain anymore. A lot of the formality has been swept aside and it continues to evolve and develop. Like all the best hobbies you can put as much or as little as you like into Rotary. I’m pleased I joined and I’d encourage anyone to give it a go.