A Rotary Club is a lot like a tree. This is not a new metaphor, but one that I will shamelessly borrow from others before me. If you have read the April 2018 copy of the rotarian magazine then you may recall an article quoting Paul Harris, who wrote in his book My Road to Rotary “…as a result of my planting a sapling in 1905. The first Rotary Club was that sapling. It has grown into a mighty tree in whose shade it is delightful to dwell.” If you attended this year’s District 5020 Conference in Tacoma last month you might have heard Rotary International President’s Representative John Prendergast refer to Rotary Clubs being like trees. But what makes a Rotary Club like a tree?
Just as a tree starts from a tiny seed, a Rotary Club starts from one tiny idea. As a club is established it becomes connected to a larger organization doing good in it’s community. Trees are no different as they are connected by deep root structures that allow them to communicate with other trees. They create an ecosystem to provide habitat and food for insects, birds and other animals. Trees absorb carbon dioxide and potentially harmful gasses from the air and release oxygen. Rotary Clubs are filled with all sorts of members who create a system to benefit others in their communities and the world. One large tree can supply a day’s supply of oxygen for four people. One Rotarian can start a project that can change thousands of lives.
I encourage you to “plant saplings’ of Rotary in your communities. Just as trees are not concerned that new saplings will deplete their resources, we should not be concerned about new clubs doing the same. Just like the mighty Oak, it may take many attempts for a new sapling to take hold.
Unfortunately, just like trees, Rotary Clubs can become old and unhealthy. If not properly cared for, pruned and fertilized, clubs can start to wither. Just as not all trees can survive in every climate, there is no one club format that works for every community. If we fail to revitalize our declining clubs, or fail to start new ones, we will be denying our communities the benefit that is Rotary.