Posted by Suzanne Gochis on Aug 12, 2019
 
As last year came to a close, I assessed the purpose and meaning of my life and contemplated some possible goals for the upcoming year.   The year was filled with a lot of activities and events, but the majority of my thoughts seemed to circle back to my involvement in my local Rotary club.    In January of 2018, I became an official Rotarian and embarked on an amazing journey of new discoveries over the course of the year. 
 
I moved to Santa Cruz, California in the summer of 2017 and was looking for a way to engage with my community when my new boss told me about this “club” that she thought I would really like.  When she told me the group was a Rotary club, I have to honestly say that I was somewhat underwhelmed.   While I have always had a heart for serving others, I thought Rotary was something my dad would join, not me.   I had a perception that these types of groups consisted of old, boring people who were all rich and retired.  (sorry… but that is what I always thought).   
 
While I was pretty sure that this club wasn’t going to be for me, I decided to humor my boss and attend a meeting.  I also had no real excuse to not try it because this club met at 7:15 every Tuesday morning and the meeting would not interfere with my current work or life obligations.   I made plans to attend thinking that I would just show up, sit toward the back, gather some information, maybe talk to a few people, and never return.   When that Tuesday morning came, I arrived at the location way too early.    I didn’t want to be in an awkward position  of being “too” early, so I sat in my car until about 5 minutes before the meeting was to start.  I was expecting there to be about 5 people in the room and a very low energy vibe.    Was I ever wrong!
 
When I entered the room, there were about fifty people in the room, and there was a positive buzz that was palpable.   These people had great energy, and it was readily apparent that all were truly glad to see one another.    I felt like I was at one of my family gatherings – people were laughing, high fiving, hugging, and animatedly conversing.   I was greeted by a person wearing a badge with the word GREETER and his name on it (Rick), and he was very welcoming.    He explained some of the basics to me without being overly invasive to my personal space.  (I typically like to keep a 3 foot window of space between myself and others, and Rick was the perfect host J).   He showed me to a table and the meeting commenced.   
 
I don’t remember much else about that first meeting other than immediately realizing that this was a group I wanted to join.    My original stereotypes were blown away instantly.  The members were funny and energetic and it was obvious that they loved to serve.  The list of opportunities to get involved was varied and interesting.   While some of the members were “senior” by a chronologic definition, they absolutely didn’t act their age!   I could tell that this was a group that liked to work hard but have fun (two main requirements for any project I undertake). 
  
From day one, my club has embraced me and made me feel at home.    I became a Red Badger, then a Blue,  and I have not looked back.    In the past year,   I have participated in a multitude of service and social activities through my club, I’ve learned about a local, state, and national topics through our fantastic guest speakers, and I’ve been able to personally witness the huge impact that my club makes on the lives of others.  Additionally, I’ve made many new friends who I adore and cherish.  My first year in Rotary has been an amazing journey.   
 
 As I reflected on my first year, there were three revelations I had:  
#1.  Being involved in Rotary will make you live longer.   It’s true!    We recently had a speaker on the topic of “Aging Well” and her main point was that we need to ensure that we establish our personal “community” as we grow older.  Having a circle of friends and family who we can be with and enjoy as we age is 100% beneficial to your health.   Rotary provides this sense of relational community.  I’m continually reminded of that every Tuesday when we gather before the meeting to catch up on one another’s lives and celebrate our connections.    At our projects or other events, we also get to enjoy one another and create memories. This is truly a special group of individuals who serve as my “community.”
 
#2.  Rotary enriches your purpose in life.     By helping others, we also help ourselves.    Doctors around the world have stated that our mental health is directly related to our satisfaction with our own lives, and there is certainly no better sense of satisfaction than being a part of a positive impact on the life of another person.   Through Rotary, I have been able to witness the joy on the faces of children with disabilities who were able to ride an adaptive bike for the first time.  I was able to watch as an international village transformed the lives of its community members through our Rotary clean water project.   Rotary allows us to do things for others that we never thought possible, and it is through that process that we also get to experience the magic that is created. 
 
#3.   Rotarians are FUN.    Despite my initial stereotype, I now  have an informed perspective of Rotarians.  There is never a dull moment in our Club, and there are always new and interesting fun times to be created and experienced.   I have learned a lot about these remarkable people and their zest and zeal for life. Sunrise Rotarians Rock!
 
As I enter my second year in Rotary, I look forward to another incredible year of service and all of the new and exciting experiences that this next year will bring.   I would encourage anyone who is seeking an avenue for service and an opportunity to personally and professionally grow to consider Rotary.   With over 1.2 million members in 35,000+ clubs across the world, there is a place for everyone!  
Visit www.rotary.org  for more information.