The richness of belonging

140820_riley_adamsBy 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 to help you make your experience with Rotary both rewarding and fun.

18 thoughts on “The richness of belonging

  1. Dear Ms Renee, thank you very much for sharing your interesting story about being a rotarian.
    I was a member of rotary clubs from the islands of Micronesia. I resigned couple years ago and I’ve been searching for another rotary club here in Ashland Oregon, and here you are. Very intetesting. I ve been accepted to attend Southern Oregon University this fall semester and I would like to apply for your schokarshio. Thanks again and keep up the good works.



  2. Thanks for a very inspiring and thought provoking post. I too joined a year ago and enjoy ” losing myself in service to others”
    I could not have said it as eloquently as you have- thanks for sharing



  3. I visit many Rotary Clubs as I am invited to share my story.; My life with Polio. I also see the oneness that this club has. They are there doing so many great things and doing it with so much willingness and love. It is always on my mind to join a Rotary Club but I just haven’t taken the first step. I do enjoy thanking them for all they do to eradicate polio. The End Polio Now campaign is in full swing to get the job completed. We can’t stop now when we are this close.

    Liked by 2 people

      • Willingness and love. Yes, yes, yes! I’m glad to hear you have shared your story with so many Rotary clubs, Linda. You are inspiring us to continue on our quest to eradicate polio worldwide. Thank you for leading in this way!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Rene,
    I love your story. I have been a Rotarian for 14 years. Being a member of my club has given me a sense of involvement in my community that can only come by being involved with other community leaders to make a difference locally and internationally. My Rotary Club has become extended family. Our members have experienced the loss of their homes and the loss of family members. These life events have allowed our club to “be there” to give the emotiona support that can only come from the deep friendships that are developed over time during participation in projects together.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Spoken from the heart, James. Sharing our service, sharing our losses, sharing our stories. It all makes for community! Thanks for your comment. I love that you have been in Rotary for 14 years. Wow! I appreciate your wisdom and the confirmation that I am on the right track having joined.


  5. Maria,

    I am from Eugene. We are about 3 hours north of Ashland. Renee is a new friend of mine – and a wonderful, energetic, addition to our large Rotary Family.

    When is your workshop? I would love to meet you when you are in Eugene. There are 12 clubs in our area – my home club is Rotary Club of Eugene Airport and we meet on Thursday mornings for breakfast, but I would be happy to accompany you to any of our other local clubs.

    Please feel free to contact me at

    Judi Beard-Strubing

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi dear Judi! Thanks very much for your offer and I will send an email with the information. It would be great to meet you, too!!! See you soon! Smiles from Argentina, Maria 🙂


  6. Pingback: The richness of belonging | Warsaw Rotary , Club 3393, District 6540

  7. Hello dear Renée, I’m Maria from RC Rio Tercero (D4815) in Argentina and I have found your post extremely interesting because you have shown how passionate you are for Rotary, its members, your club and “service above self”. I’d love to have as many classifications as you have in my club since that would show that Rotary is not only for an “elite” as some people say here.
    I don’t know how far is Ashland from Eugene but I’d love to meet you and your club members. I will be attending a 3-weeks professional workshop at the University of Oregon. Looking forward to reading from you again soon. Argentinian Rotarian Smiles, Maria 🙂


    • Thank you for your comment, Maria. I hope your stay in Oregon is a good one! I love this state. I agree that Rotary is not just for the elite. Ashland is 3 hours from Eugene but if you are willing to make the trek I would love to meet you. When are you coming and what is your professional workshop? Feel free to email me privately. So glad you could relate to my blog on belonging and community!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hi dear Renée!

        Thank you very much for your reply! I’d love to meet you, for sure! Where can I find your email so as to contact you privately? Or… do I contact you through your website?

        I will be in Eugene from October 25th till November 15th. I’m a teacher of English and the workshop is about TESOL methods. I will be attending the workshop at the University of Oregon together with other 25 people from 25 different countries.

        Hope to read from you again soon.
        Maria 🙂


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