Take the hike

My last letter drew some rather predictable comments, mainly from male readers on the last section, but some unusual ones too. These responses and for that matter any response usually would help last me a little longer, long enough to spark a dormant ambition that I should perhaps write on a more regular basis. I was in Sydney for a few days last week and I took my notebook computer with me, planning to do some writing during the flights or in between meetings, for I was traveling alone. I slept most of the time flying there and watched a few full-length movies on the way back and scanned a few others, which did not leave me a lot of time to write. While in Sydney, I failed to make a connection to the Internet and eventually gave up after a few attempts. Back home, my colleagues advised me that it was a technological hitch.

I had rushed back so as not to miss the District Conference held over the weekend. As the oft-quoted Cliff Dochtermann had said, attendance at a district conference is an enjoyable experience, and I often wonder why many members of Rotary clubs are so reluctant to attend or to stay longer at district conferences.

Fortuitously, this erudite Rotarian is the RI President’s Personal Representative to our last conference, which must have helped to boost registration and attendance. I have seen Cliff in action a number of times before, in Hong Kong and at overseas conferences. He is excellent value. He is an expansive man with an even more expansively generous personality. He is witty, motivational, alert, sensitive and worth more than his weight in gold. Cliff and Mary Elena have certainly been instrumental to the success of the last conference and we all have a lot to thank them for.

Cliff asked his audience to recall when they became a Rotarian, as opposed to when they joined Rotary or a Rotary club. He made the point that many men and women had been Rotarians all their lives, but never had a chance to join a club, while others had joined Rotary clubs for years and decades, but never graduated to become Rotarians.

Our learned Rotarian told many stories during his speeches, all very good, and I am looking forward to re-visiting them in the proceedings which Conference Chairman Kenneth Chow had promised that Conference Secretary Alice Liu would produce before the end of the current Rotary year. I have faith in both Kenneth and Alice, having had the fortune of working with them both before.

And let me try to share with you the last story Cliff related to the Conference in his closing speech. The scene was Yosemite in California, more specifically the Bridal Fall in this very famous national park. The waterfall is an extremely magnificent sight and a fine art of the Almighty Architect. From a distance, it looks like the flowing veil of the bride and the landscape around provides the right ambience and accent from which the waterfall derived its rather romantic but very much appropriate name. From a distance, the sound of the water hitting the rocks and stones below is faint, just like a bride whispering to the groom.

There is a well-used and beaten track leading from here to the bottom of the waterfall. As one gets closer, the whispers turn into murmurs and one can feel the mist in the wind and smell the accompanying freshness. The closer one gets, the louder the sound. One’s hair would perhaps become moist, as would one’s hands and face. One would perhaps begin to feel the awe and magnificence of Creation. Even closer, one’s clothes could become wet from the water, until one gets to the bottom of the fall when one could become soaked in the fall water and completely captured by the thunderous roar from the columns of water hitting the rocks below. One forgets about getting wet and one becomes totally absorbed and immersed by the force, beauty and potency of Nature. Different individuals have experienced different levels of spirituality and satisfaction, but none would go away feeling worse than before. Indeed, most people have made the journey for the experience, have enjoyed it and would do it again as often as they can. They have found something they value and would take the hike for it, but until they decide to take the first step to go down, the Bridal Fall would remain a landscape, something they have heard of but never experienced, something at a distance, far away and impersonal.

And it is the same with Rotary. Many have joined Rotary clubs, but have chosen to be spectators from afar. They would not want to get their hair or clothes wet. They are loathed to get into the ditches or to get their hands dirty. These people will therefore never experience the joy and happiness and the accompanying satisfaction from having rendered services to other fellow human beings who need them badly. And they would not experience why real happiness is helping others, which is the Rotary theme for the year 1992-93, the year Cliff Dochterman was President of Rotary International.

So my friends, I join this wise Rotarian to urge you to take the hike and encourage your members and friends to do the same. Why wait when you can do it now.

Talk to you again.

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