By Renée Riley-Adams, a member of the Rotary Club of Ashland, Oregon, USA
Recently, I received a blue name badge from my Rotary club. Initially, when a member first joins, my club issues a red badge with a ribbon that identifies them as new members. As we take part in a series of tasks that include things like joining a committee, attending a district meeting, and participating in a club service project, we get our blue badges.
During a short ceremony, I looked out into the crowd, and realized how much these people have become my community. Eating lunch with them every Thursday since last September and hearing about their children’s sports wins, new grandchildren, trips far and wide, and professional achievements, I have a new way of locating myself in this little town of 20,000 people.
In our club we have a fire chief, a policeman, some bankers, a city councilman, several doctors, a few construction guys who have big trucks, an ex-president of a university, a fairly large retired contingent, an accountant who wears bow ties, a designer and many more “classifications.” Ashland Rotary is truly a microcosm. The one thing that joins us together? Service Above Self.
At Rotary, I’ve found integrity, professionalism, an interest in life-long learning, fun, humor, and an inter-generational community. Service Leadership emerges from those whose primary motivation is a deep desire to help others. Unlike leadership approaches with a top-down style, servant leadership instead emphasizes collaboration, trust, empathy, and the ethical use of power.
I plan on working with the Interact Club at Ashland High to help kids learn about leadership and doing for others. I’m excited to be the counselor for our Youth Exchange student who is arriving later this month from Spain. I’ll have a hand in presenting Youth of the Month awards. And I look forward next summer to attending the five-day leadership camp for 144 high school juniors from Northern California and Oregon known as Rotary Youth Leadership Awards (RYLA).
There is a lot of doing involved to get the most out of Rotary. But there is doing and being. On the “being” side of the equation is the richness of belonging.
Brené Brown, a researcher and sociologist who gave one of the top five most-watched TED Talks, says: “Belonging is the innate human desire to be part of something larger than us. Because this yearning is so primal, we often try to acquire it by fitting in and by seeking approval, which are not only hollow substitutes for belonging, but often barriers to it. Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.”
That’s what my blue name badge means to me: that I had the courage to present my authentic, imperfect self to this group of human beings. And I was welcomed with open arms. Self-acceptance is a big concept and it may take me a few more years before I can say I truly feel it in my bones. Wearing my new badge on Thursdays is a good way to practice.
New to Rotary? Check out some of the resources we have for you on Rotary.org to help you make your experience with Rotary both rewarding and fun.