25 February 2013 — You Can Change Someone’s Life (C. Dochterman)


The planned program for our Fireplace Room meeting of Sunday, 24 February, went through a couple of changes. The invited guest speaker had to reschedule, but will be great when the time comes soon. As PETS had just come to an end barely an hour earlier about about 30 minutes south of our meeting, instead we enjoyed a recap of the Presidents-Elect Training Seminar by our President-Elect, Sara Vasquez, who had just enjoyed (survived?) the multiple hours of training, networking, hotel banquet food, and engaging plenary sessions with excellent speakers.

We had planned to listen together to the words of Past Rotary International President Cliff Dochterman, reading excerpts of one of his fine speeches given all over the world; as we set that aside, we provide his words to you below as this week’s program, right on this page, and urge you to take to heart his experience, humor, and passion for service and fellowship.

Roy Glickman’s Rotary Minute at the beginning of the meeting also created an Instant Project! We gathered together as a team and will submit our photo to become part of the World’s Biggest Commercial, to be sent in via a website we hope you’ll check out in general, www.endpolio.org. Here it is!  We are THIS CLOSE to eradicating polio–let’s finish the job.

















Past Rotary International President Cliff Dochterman (on the right of the above photo!…obviously!)

A friend asked me, “Why do you Rotarians feel that they have to attend every Club meeting?” My answer was: “Well, you just never know who needs you.”

Do you realize how important it is that you come to Rotary each meeting if it is at all possible?  Did you ever stop and think that there might be someone in this room who really needs you?  You never know who is troubled, whose life is in despair, or who is going through a tough time -and the friendship you find at Rotary could really make a difference.

Nearly everyone you meet at Rotary is fighting some kind of battle in their personal, family or business affairs.  A pat on the back, a warm handshake, a listening ear, a friendly comment,, all of these acts of friendship could make a huge difference in someone else’s life.  On the other hand, there might be someone who is bursting with pride or excitement and needs some one to share his or her good fortune.  And the amazing thing is – you may never know what your presence or friendship can mean when you walk into your Rotary meeting.

I recall giving a speech in Oakland some years ago.  I talked about tramping through the mud huts of an African village giving polio vaccine.  l mentioned that if our little group hadn’t been in that remote village, there probably would be no one in the world who really cared about those poverty stricken youngsters.

When the luncheon was over, a Rotarian came up to me with a young lady, who had been his guest.  He said she would like to speak to me.  Then she s said, “I am a school teacher in one of the toughest high schools in the inner city of Oakland.  My work is so difficult and I have been planning to resign from teaching.  But listening to you today, l made up my mind –those kids need me.” Tears came to her eyes.  She continued, “I made up my mind that I’m going to continue to be an inner city teacher, no matter how tough it gets.  Thanks for helping me see what my job really is, and that someone needs me.”

You see, you never know which person in the room is ready to hear the message of service to others.  You never know who needs your friendship when you walk into a Rotary meeting

I remember speaking in Seattle in the early days of the Polio Plus program.  After the lunch, a Rotarian came up to the lectern and told me he was recommitting to Rotary.  He said, “I had polio as a child and that’s why I’ve walked with this cane all my life.  It would mean a lot to me if l could prevent just a few other children from following my crippled footsteps.  Maybe l could change the life of someone.”

That’s the amazing message of Rotary.  Maybe l could change the life for someone.  Or, maybe working together, we could change the world for everyone.

That great philosopher, physician and African missionary, Dr. Albert Schweitzer, said it this way.  “I do not know what your destiny will be: but this l do know, the only ones who will find true happiness in life, are those who have searched and found how to serve others.”  Rotary you never know what one person can do to help others.

Few of us are able to save the lives of war-torn refugees or create a cure for cancer, or build schools in Afghanistan, or perform cleft palate surgery in South America or deliver wheelchairs in developing nations.  Most of us do not have the ability to perform surgery to change the lives of hundreds of people in Africa.

But let us not forget that every Rotary activity is not world-shaking or monumental.  Actually, most of the service tasks we are destined to perform are small and humble.  But that doesn’t mean they should not be done.  Building a better community right here where you live – that is a noble task.  Teaching a person to read is a noble task.  Caring for those who are sick is a noble task.  Organizing a drug and substance abuse prevention program for kids of the community is a noble task.  Taking food to a food bank or a mission dining room is a noble task–not just on Holidays, but any day.  Listening to a friend or giving encouragement to a Rotarian, could be a priceless gift greater than you could ever imagine.

As l traveled the world, l watched individual Rotarians give their greatest gift–their time and personal effort to meet the needs of those who live in poverty, hopelessness, or just facing despair.

In every community, there are small tasks that become great and noble.  It is amazing what you personally can do in someone else’s life.  Reading a book to kindergarten or first grade classes could be a gift to youngsters who have never heard an adult read stories.  In 10 minutes, you could be their hero.  Have you ever visited a senior center, and spent an afternoon talking, laughing and listening to people who have no one with whom to talk?  You would be amazed at how important an hour could be.

What l am saying is that Rotary Service can be little acts of kindness and caring.  I’ll tell you doing just little random acts of kindness are a fantastic project for a Rotary club.  Your President might ask what “acts of kindness” each member performed when you meet next week.  Just random acts of kindness could change a community–or if not, doing nice things for others, will scare them out of their minds!

My message is simply this.  For Rotary service to be important, you do not have to be President of Rotary International or District Governor, or even Club President.  Service Above Self is our motto Service for others can happen every day.  Just little acts of kind and thoughtful service –for your neighbors, customers, youth groups, senior centers, employees, and others with whom you deal every day.  That’s what Rotary’s motto is all about- Service Above Self.  The very thought that you walk into this Rotary club meeting room each week, could be a kind of service to someone in a way you will never know.

There is so much more to being a Rotarian than meeting, eating, having fun and enjoying the friendship of a great group of friends and then going back to work or playing golf.  Being a Rotarian gives us opportunities to touch the lives of people we may never know, or build a better community where we live, or even reach out to those around the world whom we will never meet or ever see.

In this small world, the lives of all of us are woven together.  That is why Rotarians reach out to people that they may never know or ever meet, and serve in ways they may never imagine.

You would be surprised how many people need you, and what small, random acts of kindness can do to make a difference in the lives of others.  Never under-estimate the power of your smile, a hug, a handshake, a kind word, a sincere compliment, a listening ear, or the smallest act of caring–all of which have the potential to make a difference.  People come into our lives for a reason, for a season, or for a lifetime.

Can you believe it–you can change the life of someone.  And it can happen right here, at a Rotary meeting, and can be continued every day–just because you are a Rotarian.


1 response to 25 February 2013 — You Can Change Someone’s Life (C. Dochterman)

  1. Cliff Dochterman’s speech is right in synch with our theme this year: Engage Rotary, Change Lives. Simply by getting involved, we can change the lives of those in need. We have important work to do. Together we can make a difference and touch many around us as well as around the world! I look forward to serving with each and every one of you. I’m so proud to be a Rotarian!

Leave a reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.