Our need for roots

By John Borst, District 5550, Director Communications

Since joining Rotary I have at least twice been startled to hear a Rotarian exclaim that Rotary is her religion.

 One of the features that a spiritual perspective on life provides is ties between our past in such a way as to know ourselves better in our present.

Humans appear to have an innate desire to know “where we came from, who we are, what our origins say about the kind of people we come from, what our history and monuments and holidays say about the kind of people we are meant to be—these have a hold on our souls like few other of the intangibles in life.”  (Joan Chittister, Feb. 20, 2012 newsletter)

In that regard Rotary is indeed like a religion. It too has its equivalent to a liturgical year…beginning with the District Governor-elect training session and announcement of the forthcoming year’s annual theme, followed by Rotary’s birthday on February 23rd, the PETS seminars, District conferences, The R.I. Convention and in the Fall, Zone Assemblies.

And anyone who followed the recent Linkedin discussion over the issue of eliminating or further relaxing Rotary’s mandatory “attendance” standard will recognize the pull of history and tradition which under laid that discussion.

However, just as countries and families have their traditions so too do Districts and clubs within Rotary. And for District 5550 one of those “root” memories took place this past weekend in the form of the 87th annual Rotary International Goodwill Meeting.

Goodwill commemorates the adding of the word “International” to the name Rotary. That honour belongs to District 5550’s The Rotary Club of Winnipeg, Manitoba. This event not only represents a defining moment in our local history but in the history of RI itself.

As Chittister has written further, ”All our lives we make great efforts to go back in time, to catch another glimpse of ourselves, to trace what it is that has formed us, to stay the same even while we change.”   Since February 23, 1924, when the first Goodwill Weekend was held in Winnipeg, Rotarians from both sides of the 49th parallel have been getting together for fun and fellowship to go back in time and catch a glimpse of ourselves and remember what formed us.

At its peak as many as 700 Rotarians and spouses attended a Goodwill weekend. This past weekend Goodwill was attended by 125 persons about equally distributed from both sides of the border.

Back when many hundreds attended annually, we were all one District so perhaps we had a greater sense of being “International”. That does not however, diminish our need to remember our history, particularly the importance this tiny borderless part of the planet “Earth” has given to the man made constructs of our Nation’s borders and those of Rotary International.

District 5550’s Conference theme this year is Peace the Power of One; R.I. president-elect Tanaka has followed with his 2012—2013 theme “Peace through Service”. 2012 is also the year the United States of America and Canada celebrate 200 years of unbroken peace.

No doubt our Governments will choose to remember the so called War of 1812 with enactments of battles fought but let’s hope that the Goodwill weekend commemorated annually by the Rotary club’s of Northwestern Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Minnesota and the Dakotas will provide the model of our friendship.

Also let us use Tanaka’s theme as a reason to reinvigorate Goodwill in our region’s Rotary Districts during 2013 so that we may reverse the participation trend of the past few years and keep alive, in our memories, this seminal moment in Rotary’s history.

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