By Stacey Jones, Rotary Club of Kingsville Southshore, Ontario, Canada
What is inspiration? To me it means that we are so moved by something, that we are compelled to act. Almost without a conscious thought.
That was my experience in Italy in the summer of 2018. While attending an event at the Coliseum, I had the opportunity to speak to Connie Nielsen about her charity called the Human Needs Project. They work primarily in the slums of Nairobi assisting people with the very basics of human needs. And as I stood there, literally rubbing elbows with these celebrities listening to them speak so passionately about their charity work; and staring out into the city from this private gala, I couldn’t help but question what I was doing with my life. And so at that moment my question became my answer.
Seven months from that night, a small group of us met for our very first Rotary meeting. The great thing about never having been in Rotary before is that we knew we could write our own script. We are a group of young professionals with families for the most part. I understood immediately that that meant kids would be a main “concern.” It’s the entire reason I hadn’t joined Rotary for so many years. I was busy with my kids!
So we decided that our children had to be a part of our story. Immediately we held a vision planning session. Through that process we secured our belief that children and families would be our priority. Not just our community children, but our own. Who wants to go to meetings feeling guilty that yet another evening is being spent away from your kids?
So they tag along. We set up tables for them during our meetings and they come to most of our events and service projects. Can it be chaotic? Oh ya. Is it fun? Definitely. Does it appeal to everyone? Absolutely not.
I do understand that I have lost potential members when they come in to one of our meetings and one of the kids is doing handstands up against the wall and two others are doing a dance routine in the corner. That’s OK with me. I am happy to recommend another club in my area.
We are different. What we do offer is a new version of Rotary. Rotary 2.0. We don’t take attendance. (I hear the gasps!) We don’t recite The Four-Way Test; our children do. We don’t serve dinner at our meetings. It takes too much time. And we don’t have meetings every week. Maybe we go to someone’s house or clean up a park one week. It’s not perfect and it’s not for everyone. We are learning and growing and trying our best.
But what I do know is that it’s working. I know it’s working because last week, two of the kids made their own “end polio now” bracelets as a craft. On their own! The week before that, three of them were crawling through a ditch and long grass helping us clean a park; because it was fun. They had a meeting of their own and decided that they want to hold bake sales and also paint and sell rocks. And every Wednesday when we pick our daughter up from school, she asks if WE have Rotary tonight.
You see, kids are no different than us adults. They want to do good things because it makes them feel good. They also want to feel empowered. So let them. Just because they are children doesn’t mean they don’t have really good ideas. And allowing them to help at service projects will absolutely make that experience richer for everyone.
So while there are times that we have to shush them in a meeting or stop to kiss a boo boo, at the end of it all I know they hear us. They may not be listening but they certainly hear. And by hearing, they do. And my hope is that we’ve now created the next generation of doers.