The Gall of Bitterness

My Dear Rotarians and Friends, in particular my Action Presidents, The 1898 Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable defines the gall of bitterness as the bitterest grief, or extreme afflictions. The ancients taught that grief and joy were subject to the gall, affection to the heart, knowledge to the kidneys, anger to the bile, and courage and timidity to the liver. The gall of bitterness, like the “heart of hearts,” means the bitter centre of bitterness, as the heart of hearts means the innermost recesses of the heart, or affections.

Afflictions or affections, bitter or sweet, grief or joy, all these and other pairs of words which seemingly describe opposing states of the heart, at the end of the day, are no more than words and would only take on meaning to he who means or minces them. One supposes that may be why they are often used together and interchangeably, to confront or confuse readers.

Early last week, news came through that Peter Chan, 1991-92 President of Rotary Club of Hong Kong North, passed away on 1 July 2000, survived by his loving wife Gloria, Charter President of Rotary Club of Queensway. I have known that Peter was unwell for a while and I last saw him on 13 May when three clubs held a joint party at the Aberdeen Marina Club. His spirit was high at the time. Peter and Gloria are both great supporters of Rotary and the District. Most important, they supported each other. They were often seen together in Rotary functions, enjoying each other and bringing joy and happiness to their friends. We learnt now that Peter had kidney cancer. He found that out last October and both he and Gloria had been fighting hard together since. We also learnt that Peter accepted the Christian faith and became a Catholic last May, and in the words of the priest presiding at his funeral service on 8 July, found the meaning of life. My thoughts go to Gloria, and I hope yours too. Life is for the living, and from the huge turnout of Rotarians and friends at his funeral, I am positive that Peter had a full life and indeed would live on through Gloria, their friends and Rotary.

Last week also saw quite a few clubs having changeover meetings. Let me say for the record that I am not averse to these meetings at all and that I enjoyed all the ones I went to. My problem is I cannot be in more than one place at a time. Invariably, at these meetings, outgoing and incoming presidents would thank their teams and each other and pledge to work together to take their clubs to greater heights. I was also pleased that many presidents thanked their spouses and families for the support they had been having or would continue to enjoy. One president for example thanked his father and actually gave him an award, while his successor thanked her mother and husband, and so on. I am always touched by these scenes and I can never have too much of them.

Some clubs asked the new board members to pledge allegiance to the club in public that they would attend their respective offices with due care and diligence and so on, and at least one club asked me to witness the process. I put in an extra phrase for good measures to the effect that they would have pledged to attend any meetings the Governor would ask them to attend, but in the subsequent speech, explained the spirit of volunteerism and how these and other pledges should or would work.

Last night, we had a reunion of the District Installation Organizing Committee. It turned out to be a very much homey occasion. There were many small children running around and the caterer charged me for 42 meals. I lost count of how many did turn up. Dipo and Renuka were there to thank the team, as did Chairman M K and Lina. Dipo was hospitalized for two days last week, but is now fit for most activities except vigorous exercises such as jogging.

Tomorrow, Tuesday 11 July, the Action Presidents would have their first Joint Presidents’ Meeting. Once again, let me put on the record that these meetings have served the District well and would continue to be a useful forum for the meeting of the minds and for advancement of Rotary and what Rotary represents. As to how these meetings are to be operated or conducted, this is for my Action Presidents to decide. The District would facilitate and I would convene the first meeting up to the point office bearers are elected.

I would be heartless if I did not thank you and other readers who responded throughout the week to my last letter with such encouraging, supportive and loving messages. Rosita and I were both overwhelmed. Indeed, many of you have touched our heart of hearts. Such is the bittersweet tastes of love: sweeter than honey and bitter than gall: and with such love and support, Rosita would simply have to get well. There is no other alternative. Talk to you soon.

Talk to you soon.

John Wan

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