By Erin Wagner, a member of the Rotary Club of Minneapolis South, Minnesota, USA
I am a product of Rotary’s youth programs, which taught me some amazing lessons. For example:
A farm girl from Idaho, my youth exchange to France (2001-02) and the associated culture shock taught me to be aware of and question my assumptions, and to recognize that people are people all over the world.
Delegation did not come naturally to me. Fortunately, within the framework of Rotaract, I got to take part in projects I simply could not pull off alone. In my inadequacy, I learned a fundamental appreciation for the skills and efforts of every contributor.
When my Rotary district hosted the international convention in 2007, I was hired to serve as the secretary to the host organization committee. Still in college, I had the privilege of learning basic skills (like preparing financial documents, writing grants, and participating effectively in meetings) from experts in banking, fundraising, and management. Conscious of how much I had to learn, they nevertheless expected a level of professionalism commensurate with the opportunity, and held my hand as I found my way.
One Rotarian surprised the Rotaractors by cashing in his frequent flyer miles so that we could visit the Chilean school for which we were fundraising. We learned a lot from seeing first-hand the impact of our efforts, but what has touched me the most is his motive. He saw value in our education and development as humanitarians, an education we could not have accessed without his assistance.
Tying these lessons together, I have learned that the essence of gratitude is the impulse to share the goodness with others.
Now a college graduate and small business owner, I was able to use my expertise in social media to pay forward that gratitude in three ways through a 2012-13 Public Image Grant. By using paid promotion on Facebook to draw the public’s attention to the District 5950 (Minnesota, USA) Facebook page, we were able to:
- Educate people in the community about the opportunities for service, fellowship, and learning available through Rotary,
- Help local clubs make the public aware of their mission and attract new members,
- Share what we learned and document our strategy online at http://houseandhoffman.com/facebook-for-rotary.
But even so, service is a funny thing. This attempt to repay my debt of gratitude has only left me richer as it has deepened my connections throughout the community, in my district, and around the world. In the end, doing justice to the kindnesses shown to me will require a lifetime of service.