Kalyan Banerjee President, Rotary International

In 1885, the London Times ran a series of editorials honouring the 100th birthday of Sir Moses Montefiore, the British financier and philanthropist knighted by Queen Victoria. The editorials commented on his honesty, his generosity, and his willingness to come to the aid of anyone in need. One story was particularly telling.

Someone once asked Sir Moses, one of the wealthiest men of his era, how much he was worth. In the face of such an ill-mannered inquiry, he merely paused for a moment’s reflection before naming a figure – one that fell far short of his questioner’s expectations. Naturally, it was met with an objection; surely he must be worth 10 times as much! Sir Moses merely smiled. “Young man,” he replied, “you didn’t ask me how much I own. You asked me how much I am worth. So I calculated how much I have given to charity this year, and that is the number I gave you. You see, in life we are worth only what we are willing to share with others.”

When we calculate our own worth, do we think about it in terms of what we have, or how we use it? When we say that all human beings are of equal worth, do our actions follow our words?

I believe that being a Rotarian means looking at all of our resources differently. What is the most good that we could choose to do with what we have? What are the choices that will ultimately leave us the richest?

In Rotary, we are all aware of the great needs in so many parts of our world. And we all know how much we can do to help through our Rotary Foundation. We can change lives, we can restore hope, we can build futures – if we choose to.

In life, everything is a choice. We can choose to close our eyes to the needs of others, to keep what we have for ourselves, to declare the problems of others to be theirs alone. Or we can choose to look past distance, past color, past language and dress and culture, and see that people everywhere are just like us – and then refuse to walk away.