Editor’s Note: The following poem, in its original form, was composed by the theologian John Chuchman. It was originally about his Christian Church as an institution. As I read it, it reminded me of Rotary and our struggles to grow our membership in North America and many other nations across this Globe.
I wrote John and asked him for permission to modify it for a Rotarian organisation. I received permission to modify it. John has reviewed it and extended his permission to share it with you.
The words in italics represent my edits. Link here to view the original version.
In many nations Rotary is dying
and it’s not a particularly slow death.
It’s members are aging
and once they are dead,
will Rotary die too?
Is the answer to attract young people;
Unless Rotary figures out how to attract young people,
will Rotary in many nations die?
Rotary as it is,
is not attractive to young people
and to date,
efforts to be hip,
to get down with the program,
and move with the times
has only exposed Rotary International’s hierarchy and elite
as the uncomprehending folks, they are.
Whatever you say about the inexperience of the younger generation,
they are smart enough to spot a fake or an imposter
programs and youth outreach,
or even pub nights, movie nights,
and even more contemporary changes,
have for the most part failed
to produce the kind of results Rotary needs in order to survive.
The younger generation
will not be bound by man-made
rules and regulations,
rites and rituals
as we were programmed to do.
For the most part clubs seeking to grow their numbers
have become obsessed with trying to figure out
what to do
to bring in a younger crowd.
But, youth are not the future of Rotary in many nations.
The silver-haired aging population of this planet
are the future of Rotary.
I too had been fooled
into thinking that the future of Rotary is to bring in a younger crowd.
But the real solution lies more in a reality
to which many of us have been blind.
The fastest growing part of our population is seniors.
By the year 2030 – 25-30 percent of the population
will be made up of senior citizens.
By 2050 that number is set to rise to 35-40%.
The even better news is that as we live longer
and are enjoying better health;
the vast majority of seniors
can expect to live healthy and productive lives.
It gets better.
Our aging population is better educated
that it has ever been before
and despite most of the dire predictions,
the vast majority of seniors are better off financially
than seniors have ever been in the history of humanity.
Now that doesn’t mean there aren’t challenges
or that some of our seniors aren’t living in poverty.
It does mean that we do have the wherewithal
to ensure that seniors can live vitally rewarding lives
and contribute to the health and wellbeing of our society
in ways we are only beginning to tap into.
The future has so much potential.
When the fish who have been caught by Rotary’s good news
swim off to other shores,
when we are gone,
there will be plenty of more fish in the seas.
Think long and hard about this.
Why aren’t we casting our nets where the fish are?
Has Rotary become so obsessed with youth
that it is willing to let schools and schools of fish
in the vain hope that minnows are more attractive
because they alone can save Rotary?
When did any of Rotary’s Good News become about
saving an institution?
We have Good News to share with people of all ages
who have ears to listen.
And that Good News
is that we each have within us
all we need to be fully human.
The Good News
is that we do not need
approval of some external agency,
regular attendance at some club meeting room
or some deep dark secret hidden in a constitution.
Most of us are getting up there in years
know the importance of dwelling in the questions of this life.
Who are we?
Where did we come from?
Why are we here?
Is there a Creator, or a god, or a source,
or a reality that we are somehow connected with?
Where are we going?
What is justice?
How do we stop the violence?
What can we do to ensure peace?
What happens when we die?
Where are we going?
Are we going anywhere?
Is there life beyond this life?
What is love?
Who am I?
These are the questions that haunt our very existence.
We have a contribution to make
to conversations about the very nature of reality.
We have wisdom to share.
We have love to give.
We have a hunger for justice and peace.
We can continue to be obsessed with youth
or we can embrace who and what we are
and live fully,
and become all we are created to be.
We have the grey hair and balding heads, old bones,
We also have what so many people wish.
We have an appetite for learning
and we are not afraid to dwell in our questions.
We have the courage to try new things
and to fail if need be.
We have a passion for life
and we sure know how to play.
We can find the courage to play to our strengths.
We can meet our financial challenges
and solve our accessibility challenges.
We can be a vital community.
If we be authentic to who we are;
if we play to our many strengths
we will continue to be the kind of Gathering
which is attractive to all ages.
Healthy communities are attractive.
Communities who know who they are
and who they serve
are healthy communities.
Healthy communities are able to play to their strengths.
We don’t need to become what we are not
in order to survive.
That doesn’t mean that we don’t need to challenge ourselves
to be more than we are.
It does mean that we need to remain open
to the challenges of the world in which we live.
But we need to hold up a mirror
and celebrate who we are together.
We have so much potential.
So many strengths.
Yes, there is so much more that we can be.
I love spreading the Good News.
There are so very many fish in the sea.
All sorts of varieties and ages
so let us cast our nets widely.
Let’s play to our strengths,
for we are great fishers
and we the most precious bait,
the Good News
that at the very heart of all
that is the Reality that
Rotary is LOVE.
For everything there is a season,
this is our season.
Let’s embrace it.
Let’s live fully
and Love extravagantly
to be all that we are created to be.
Let’s do it together.
The Good News
has absolutely nothing to do with
saving an institution.