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Service Above Self & Belonging

Yesterday I got my Blue Badge in Rotary. Initially, we get a Red Badge with a ribbon that says "New Member." We are then expected to work our way through a long list that has on it such tasks as join a committee, attend a district meeting, participate in a club service project, etc., to get the coveted Blue Badge.

There was a short ceremony during which I had a chance to address my fellow Rotarians. As I looked out into the crowd, I realized how much these people have become my community. After eating lunch with them every Thursday since last September and hearing about their children’s sports wins, new grandbabies, trips far and wide, and professional achievements I have a new way of locating myself in this little town of 20,000 people.


In our club we have a fire chief, a policeman, some bankers, a city councilman, several doctors, a few construction guys who have big trucks, an ex-president of a university, a fairly large retired contingent, an accountant who wears bow ties, a designer and many more “classifications.” Ashland Rotary is a truly a microcosm. The one thing that joins us together? Service Above Self.

When I first joined I was eager to tell people what life coaching is and to pass out my newly-minted business cards. My sponsor reminded me gently: “Service Above Self, Renée.” That was ten months ago and I doubt if many club members understand life coaching any better. What they do know is that I am, like them, engaged in Service Leadership.

At Rotary I’ve found integrity, professionalism, an interest in life-long learning, fun, humor, and an intergenerational community. “Service Leadership emerges from those whose primary motivation is a deep desire to help others. Unlike leadership approaches with a top-down style, servant leadership instead emphasizes collaboration, trust, empathy, and the ethical use of power.”

I plan on working with the Interact Club at Ashland High to help kids learn about leadership and doing for others. I’m excited to be the counselor for our Youth Exchange student who is arriving later this month from Spain. I’ll have a hand in presenting Student of the Month awards. And I look forward next summer to attending the 5-day leadership camp for 144 high school juniors from Northern California and Oregon known as RYLA (Rotary Youth Leadership Awards).

Yes, there is a lot of doing involved to get the most out of Rotary. There is doing and being. On the “being” side of the equation is the richness of belonging. Brené Brown, a researcher and sociologist who gave one of the top five most-watched TED Talks, says: “Belonging is the innate human desire to be part of something larger than us. Because this yearning is so primal, we often try to acquire it by fitting in and by seeking approval, which are not only hollow substitutes for belonging, but often barriers to it. Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.”

That’s what the Blue Badge means to me: that I had the courage to present my authentic, imperfect self to this group of human beings. And I was welcomed with open arms.

Self-acceptance is a big concept and it may take me a few more years before I can say I truly feel it in my bones. Wearing my new Blue Badge on Thursdays is a good way to practice though. Service Above Self.






























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