In February, I attended the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Rotary Club of St. Paul, Minn., USA. After dinner that evening, a young lady came up to me and asked, “Of everything you have seen this year in Rotary, what has touched your heart the most?”
For such a simple question, it was nearly impossible to answer – only because I have seen so much that has touched my heart so deeply and made me so proud to be a Rotarian. These past 12 months have given me the opportunity and the privilege of observing firsthand how our service touches the lives of others, and how great are the needs we address.
It is one thing to see photographs of the devastation in Haiti caused by January’s earthquake. It was another thing entirely for me to walk among the rubble, to see the collapsed buildings, to understand that the true scope of the tragedy will never be known.
In Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where Rotary has done so much to rebuild the city shattered by the 2004 tsunami, I thought I understood the scale of the disaster before my visit. But I was not prepared for the sight of a large freighter in a field 2 miles inland, swept there by the tsunami.
In China, at a Rotary-supported orphanage, I held a two-month-old girl who had been abandoned on a train. With that baby in my arms, I realized that what Rotary provided to the orphanage – food, warm clothing, a clean and safe home – was only one part of what was needed. What that child wanted most of all, in that moment, was simply to be held and to feel loved, and that touched me very much.
There is so much we can do as Rotarians that will mean so much to others. And as important as it is to give material assistance – to help in the areas of water, health and hunger, and literacy – it is equally vital that we give that help freely, with true caring for others. Because often, simply caring is what helps others most of all.
As this Rotary year and my term as RI president draw to a close, I thank you all for your service to Rotary and your support. I have been honored to serve as your president, and remind you that The Future of Rotary Is in Your Hands.