They meet — in a gymnasium built six years ago by perhaps the community’s largest United Methodist Church — over a catered meal that is delivered in a van and served by friendly and smiling staff from a nearby supermarket. No one goes hungry.
After reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and offering a prayer, they get down to business. They spend a few minutes getting to know more about each other or working with others at their tables to solve a puzzle or similar challenge. They get up and share the happy news of their lives — birthdays, anniversaries, the accomplishments of their children and grandchildren.
Depending upon their school colors, they brag — just a little — when Iowa State University bests the University of Iowa in some way. Perhaps, they gloat just a little about Iowa State’s latest stumble. But it’s all in fun.
All of this is followed by a guest speaker: The director of the City’s Public Works Department or the photographer who has a show at the community’s Art Center, the men’s basketball coach from Grinnell College or student performers from an upcoming theatrical production at the local community college.
This is Middle America at its best. If you haven’t already guessed, this is the weekly meeting of the Rotary Club of Muscatine, which has been meeting weekly for nearly 100 years. It is a part of Rotary International, a worldwide organization of 1.2 million leaders that was formed in 1905 by Paul P. Harris, a Chicago lawyer in the days before that may have been regarded as a pejorative.
These meetings have become something I look forward to each week. They have provided an opportunity to become at least casual friends — and in some cases, very good friends — with men and women I would otherwise not really know. Differing opinions about politics, religion or any other issues we may think separate us from each other are put aside — at least for an hour — for the betterment of our community. I’ve even learned it’s OK to root for the Iowa State Cyclones. At least when they’re not competing against the Hawkeyes.
The only bad thing I can say about Rotary is that it’s too bad too many potential members (and even many dues-paying members) think they can’t afford to give up one lunch hour a week to participate in these meetings.
Perhaps Rotary is an anachronism. Men usually outnumber women at many Rotary meetings. At 48, I’m a younger member in my club. In a world of social media, Rotary may move too slowly. Seem too tied to tradition.
In this respect, Rotary is a lot like life itself: You have to put effort into it in order to get something back. If you do, the benefits outweigh the investment.
Every Rotary meeting ends with a recitation of the Four-Way Test, which is an ethical guide for members to use in their personal and professional relationships. And it seemed like the best way to wrap up today’s post.
Of the things we think, say or do:
- Is it the TRUTH?
- Is it FAIR to all concerned?
- Will it build GOODWILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS?
- Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?
What a place the world would be if everyone upheld that code. Or at least did more than rotely recite the words .
That’s going to be a personal goal for this week and beyond. Please join me in trying to pass the test.