This past weekend, I had the privilege and honor of attending the Rotary International Convention in Atlanta, Georgia. For those of you who don't know my story, I was blessed to serve as a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar to Switzerland in 2002-2003, and I've always felt an enormous debt of gratitude to the organization.
Rotary International has been INSTRUMENTAL in eradicating polio from the world. This is a disease that killed my great-uncle as a young boy. My grandmother spoke so sweetly of him - but polio took many, many children's lives, and crippled the ones that it didn't destroy altogether. Because of the work of Rotary International, polio has ALL BUT been eliminated in the world. In fact, since it launched its Polio Plus program in 1985, Rotary has given more than $1.6 Billion dollars and countless volunteer hours to immunize more than 2.5 BILLION children in 122 countries. Additionally, Rotary's advocacy efforts have garnered more than $7.2 Billion in additional funding for the Polio eradication program.
Because of the efforts of Rotary (and God's blessing on them), there are now fewer than 10 cases WORLDWIDE of a disease which used to cripple MILLIONS of people. I don't know about you, but that brings tears to my eyes. I had the privilege of being in the room when Bill Gates pledged an additional 450 Million dollars to get us to the finish line of ZERO polio cases. For the disease to be deemed eradicated, the world must be polio-free for three straight years. The end is in sight, and I feel incredibly grateful to be a part of an organization that has made this possible.
My time at the Rotary International convention brought home 3 points:
1. We're all the same. Polio affected kids in the United States just as it affected kids in Africa, Asia, South America, Europe, and Australia. Disease is no respecter of gender, race, or socio-economic class.
2. When we work together, we can make massive change in the world. One of the most gorgeous events in the conference was the presentation of the Rotary Flag - uniting citizens of more than 200 nations for one common purpose.
3. Money can make impact. In the hands of people with vision, it is an extraordinary tool. Frankly, money was required to get the polio vaccine into the mouths of countless underprivileged children. Money was required to perform the research to create the vaccine. I think that women are sometimes looked down upon if they desire to make money (and large amounts of it), but it's pretty clear that the Proverbs 31 woman was out making money for her family. And this past weekend brought home to me the dramatic positive effects that money, when used for a good purpose, can have. Absolutely, God controls all! But I don't believe there's any shame in desiring to earn more money in order to make more impact!
I'm walking away from an incredible event feeling extraordinarily grateful to be part of an organization that's totally committed to doing good in the world. And I'm struck by how we are all really the same - no matter our nationality, race, color, or creed.
I'll close this message out with the Rotary motto: "Service above self. He (she) profits MOST who serves BEST."
With so much love,