December: Is it the about the ‘Family of Rotary’ or Rotarians’ Families?

By John Borst, Director Communications, District 5550

December is family month. Although we often talk about the “Family of Rotary” as TRF chair D K Lee does in his December message, “family month” to me is more about the “families” of each Rotarian.

One of the moments when this struck home for me was PRIP Kaylan Banerjee’s closing speech at the Bangkok convention. Perhaps he said it off the cuff because it is not in the proceedings of the 2012 RI convention. What I remember is he said we have to make Rotary more “family friendly”. And I have been reflecting on how we might do that from time-to-time ever since.

I’ll share some of those ideas another time; instead, here is what Banerjee did say and illustrate about Rotarians and families:

It’s difficult to find the words to express what this year has meant to me and to Binota. And I’ve spent a lot of time over the last few weeks trying to do just that — to find those words. How does one sum up, in a few minutes behind a microphone, the experience of a lifetime?

Well, as I was wrestling with this question, I decided to do what one should always do, when confronted with an intractable problem, at least if one is a married man — I asked my wife. And Binota made me a cup of Darjeeling tea and we sat down in the kitchen with a pencil and some paper and started to think it through. And as we talked, something caught my eye — a drawing she’d hung on the door of the refrigerator with a magnet. It was a lovely little drawing — of a mother and father and two children, flowers in the background, all of them smiling. And I said, That’s beautiful! Where did that come from?

And Binota told me who had made it: our grandson Bodhi, who lives with his parents in Sydney, Australia.

I got up to have a closer look, and something struck me as familiar — not about the drawing, but about the paper. I took it off the refrigerator and turned it over, and saw that our son, an environmental engineer, must have been supplying our grandson with drawing paper, because on the back of the picture was a page from a Rotary program book, the staples carefully removed.

And what was on that page? Nothing other than one of my own speeches!

Well, Binota and I had a good laugh over it, but you know, it made me think. Because it was obvious which side of that paper was the more important — and it wasn’t the side with my speech on it.

What’s important in Rotary isn’t what we say, it’s what we do and who we are. And that’s what I’ve been talking about, all this time, when I’ve asked Rotarians to Reach Within to Embrace Humanity. I’ve asked you to start at the beginning, with yourselves, and with those closest to you — your families.

Because if we’re really going to take it seriously, this idea that we can change the world through Rotary, we all have to start by changing ourselves — by working on ourselves, by really thinking about everything we do and say — and making sure that our actions reflect the people that we want to be. If we want a more peaceful world, we have to begin by living in peace ourselves first — in peace within ourselves, in our souls, and then in our homes and in our families.

This header from District 5040 captures it well!


About John Borst

John Borst’s career in education spans the years 1960 to 1996. During those 36 years, he spent an equal amount of time working int he English language, Public and Catholic school boards. Borst taught in both elementary and high school environments. Positions of responsibilities held included department head in Geography, curriculum coordinator of Social and Environmental Studies, Principal, Education Officer with the Ministry of Education, Superintendent of Schools, and Superintendent of Student Services. Borst retired in 1996 as Director of Education for the legacy Dryden Board of Education. During this time, Borst has lived in the Ontario communities of Brampton, Toronto, Newmarket, Thunder Bay, Aurora and Dryden. Currently, Borst splits his time between Dryden and Toronto. Since retirement, Borst has served as a Supervisory Officer with a remote School Authority; been a freelance writer of articles on education in particular for Education Today, the magazine of the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association (OPSBA); founded and edited from 2006 - 2010 the Education blog Tomorrow’s Trust: A Review of Catholic Education; and from 2003-2010 was a trustee of the Northwest Catholic District School Board.
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