A soggy lobster bake shines with Rotary spirit

Marty Peak Helman with RI President Sakuji Tanaka during the Changeover ceremony in Boothbay Harbor, Maine, 1 July. Photo by Ann Lee Hussey

By Marty Peak Helman, governor of District 7780 (parts of Maine, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire, USA)

On his first day as RI President, Sakuji Tanaka joined Rotarians in my hometown of Boothbay Harbor, Maine, taking part in a Changeover ceremony for six district governors and 46 club presidents.

Rotarians came from Quebec, New York, New Jersey, and all over New England – some making a 10-hour drive — in order to shake hands with Tanaka-san, hear him speak, and be formally inducted by him into their new Rotary offices. It was a remarkable honor for all.

The centerpiece of the Changeover was a  lobster bake. President Tanaka has publicly stated he is most comfortable in suit and tie. But I knew I couldn’t live with myself if we ended up squirting lobster juice on his tie. So we created tie-dyed T-shirts in his colors, promoting “Peace Through Service.” We made it a fun thing to wear, which he did, complete with presidential pin!

Local Rotarians asked the Governor of Maine to pass a resolution declaring 1 July “Rotary – Peace Through Service” day in the state of Maine. Our local elementary school music director assembled a choir of young talent to honor our guests from Japan and Canada with an international repertoire. And for a gift for President Tanaka, the River Valley-Rumford Rotary Club arranged for a local craftsman to make a plaque from a Paul Harris Tree. (Paul Harris planted the tree in 1935, but it came down a few years ago. The craftsman has made several plaques with its wood since.)

District 7780 voted to transfer $5,000 in District Designated Funds (DDF) to the Rotary Peace Centers program in honor of the occasion. Everything was going splendid – until nature intervened.

Within fifteen minutes, the skies went from sunny to downpour, and the well-crafted event turned into a pell-mell rush indoors. As we scurried to get everything inside, an amazing thing happened. The assembled Rotarians realized that what was important was not the carefully planned arrangements, but rather the Rotary spirit.

What we do – build wells, give children a chance to go to school, provide lunch for the elderly, treat and prevent disease – these are the things that really matter.

We rallied, and had a remarkable, memorable event. President Tanaka’s Changeover day will be one both he and all of us honored to be in attendance will not soon forget.

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