Service above self at any age | Mary Nader

By MARY NADER | Columnist

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”

As liberating as this idea might be, it can also be daunting. Will the efforts of a few really matter, especially as our problems grow bigger and more complex? Yet Anne Frank’s words remind us that within each of us lies the potential to improve the world in some way — and we can start right this moment, no matter our age or situation.

Living that belief, Rotary has inspired people throughout the world to work hard and make a difference in their communities and around the world. If there is a defining principle of Rotary, it is about leadership. From the earliest days, the desire to encourage leaders with character and integrity has informed and guided Rotary. The Rotary’s Four-Way Test, created by those first Rotarians, stands as a timeless and still-relevant touchstone for making mutually-beneficial decisions in even the most vexing situations. The hunger for goodness was strong then as it is today, and within its first 20 years, Rotary had grown to 200,000 members in 75 countries.

But knowledge and progress can’t stop at a generation’s line — it must be carried forward and evolved, inserted into each age with new relevance and promise. Investing in the future is a part of leadership and it is a part of Rotary, ensuring that future generations will live kindly, bring peace and understanding to our world, and learn the values of service, benevolence and servant leadership. By integrating the latest technology and ideas with time-honored traditions, the Rotary clubs of each generation discover their own mission and have the tools to make real and sustainable progress.

Compared with the Rotary of old, predominantly male and mostly comprised of senior community leaders, the modern Rotary is quite different. Should you visit the Poulsbo Rotary Club meeting on any Friday morning, you would meet a wide range of members from all sorts of backgrounds, bound by a love of community and a desire to serve. The energy and passion that result when such diversity comes together, blending into a single force, is formidable and impactful. For a young person, the opportunities to network, learn and be a part of something bigger than themselves are abundant.

Building the leaders of the future is why many Rotary programs are designed to support young people. For example, knowing that a key to peace is understanding and connection, the Rotary Youth Exchange program offers high school students of every country an opportunity to live abroad for a year, hosted by Rotarians also blessed with the up-close-and-personal chance to learn of another country and its people.

Another Rotary goal is to seed the world with peace by choosing 100 young professionals every year from around the world to receive fellowships to study at one of Rotary’s Peace Centers. The hope is that they emerge as leaders who become catalysts for peace and can help prevent and resolve conflict. Other programs, like Interact, provide service opportunities and fellowship for high school students right here at home.

In a world where young people can easily lose their bearings, where negative influences can often be louder than the still, small voice of a better way, joining other good people as they try to “improve the world” and serve their community is one way we can secure a future worthy of all of us.

If you would like to learn more about Rotary’s youth programs, would like to join us at one of our Friday meetings, let us know at Info@poulsborotary.org.

— Mary Nader is president of the Rotary Club of Poulsbo-North Kitsap.

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