Rotary Doesn’t Have 4-Way Test Only!

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PP Teofilo San Luis Jr.

If Rotary were a teacher giving a 4-item quiz, a student can simply answer “Yes” to each question and be assured of getting all of them right. After all, Truth, Fairness, Goodwill and Understanding, and Beneficence are all concepts generally embraced and accepted by everyone. Members of Rotary can emphatically answer “Yes!” likewise.

What many Rotarians do not realize is that there really are not only 4 questions being asked: there is a fifth one – not answerable by a “Yes/No” – but by a narrative. And the question is: “Why do you stay in Rotary?” Huh?

A variety of answers can be drawn. Each one can be a revelation – or a deception.

To be sure, there is the resort to Rotary’s motto “Service Above Self” (or “He Profits Most Who Serves Best” as the other twin motto – until the R.I. Council of Legislation dropped it in 1989). Best answer. No one can argue against it.

Getting into – and staying in – Rotary can be because one’s profession and orientation are natural channels in the delivery of knowledge, attitudes & skills to the milieu the Rotarian is moving, providing valuable insight for fellow Rotarians to appreciate, or even patronize, but not solicited.

Or, the answer could be anchored on “Effective Altruism” in wanting to make a difference: to work out how to help others as much as possible in solving the most pressing problems in the community. But there are more problems than solutions, especially as these problems are not constricted to a particular community but are, in fact, global and interconnected.

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Getting into the more “mundane” (a.k.a., practical) side, the answer might be that one stays in Rotary because of “Corporate Imperatives” – especially when one is in the business world and connections would be quite useful to promote one’s enterprise. There is really nothing objectionable to this as Rotary club membership affords the opportunity to a Rotarian to interact with other Rotarians within the club, or other clubs in the district, or the general public.  After all, ‘tis been said that “Service without Fellowship” is servitude, in much the same way that “Fellowship without Service” is frivolity.

Rotary as a service organization provides training in people-to-people/relational management always mindful that the interaction occurs among “equals”, i.e., member-volunteer where the hierarchy is only in the context of club administration. No one is superior to another. A veteran in the club (usually a past president already) has no preeminence over a newcomer, except perhaps by having the prefix PP on his name. He is called simply by his Rotary name and not by his professional title in the secular world. And he can be assigned to do tasks he may have done before. He can be recycled. That’s what the Rotary wheel conveys: sometimes up, sometimes down.

Notwithstanding that Rotary is a volunteer organization, it is still an enterprise composed of men and women with his/her own aspirations and motivations. A Rotarian – just like anybody else for that fact – has his/her personality projected in the way he/she acts or speaks. He/she is not always just like a money bill that everyone likes. There will always be downsides – and break-ups in camaraderie and relationships – especially when politics (as we know it) comes in stealthily and corrodes even the best bonding established through the years.

But the opposite may also be true: Rotary has forged sincere friendship and fraternity that survive years. The mutual help and assistance, even small acts of kindness shown, words of endearment spoken, the club becoming a family…these – and many more aspects in the human dynamics – are the glue that holds the club together through thick and thin.

Rotary’s 5th test. Easy to frame. Difficult to answer.