Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Making-Up Is Fun!

When I say “Making-up is fun,” I don’t mean with your spouse. I mean going to a Rotary Club meeting in a place other than my home Club in Greensburg, Pennsylvania.

Travelling, as I do fulltime in my Prevost RV bus conversion, forces me to “make-up” wherever I happen to be. My commitment to attend a weekly Rotary meeting remains strong and reinforced by the friendly Rotarians and the bountiful experiences.

Most recently, I did a “make-up” in Scranton, Pennsylvania. The Rotary Club of Scranton meets at the Radisson Lackawanna Station, a 1908 restored railroad station. Though much has changed to turn this site to a full-service luxury hotel, you can still see traces of its previous life. The green tile wall rises floor to ceiling in the banquet room off the hotel lobby. This is the original exterior station wall which faced the train tracks. Ticket windows cut into the tile wall allowed folks traveling by train to buy tickets without entering the main station. Today, the windows are closed and look like wooden shutters placed evenly along the green tile wall. If you look up, you can see metal beams extending perpendicular from the green wall. Historically, the beams supported a roof over the train tracks to protect passengers from rain and snow. In the 1983 conversion from a rundown train station to a hotel, this area became an enclosed banquet room. This marvelous place is where the Rotary Club of Scranton meets each Monday at noon.

I may have overlooked the Radisson Lackawanna Station as a place listed on The National Register of Historic Places had it not been for a “make-up.” I also know that I would not have enjoyed the luxury of dining in many of the member’s only country clubs like the McAllen Country Club or the Canyon Creek Country Club had it not been for Rotary meetings held on these sites.

My own Rotary Club of Greensburg met for many years at the Greensburg Country Club until a fire disrupted its operations. Among members of my Club, it is rumored that the fire also destroyed our Club’s collection of international and national banners. Banners are a Rotary tradition. Visiting Rotarians can present their home Club Banner to the Club when they attend a “make-up” meeting. The banner is a symbol of friendship and fellowship. I’ve collected a number of banners symbolic in their own right to present to my Club President when I return to Greensburg. An ostrich is pictured on an Arizona Club banner because of the community’s traditional ostrich races. A dove appears on one Texas Club banner because years ago its members would leave the Friday noontime meetings to go dove hunting in Mexico instead of returning to work. The waterfalls of Quebec, or “chutes” as they are called in Canada, express the pride of the St. Nicolas Club in their local scenery.

How Clubs display their acquired banners in interesting too. I’ve seen them strung together with fancy chords and hung from hooks around the walls of meeting rooms. Some Clubs have invested in special free-standing displays. The most unique display I’ve seen had the banners sewn together in quilt-like wall hanging with the seams hidden by old-fashioned rick rack trim.

I get an inside look at the community from the programs when I’ve done a “make-up.” I’ve learned about local political issues such as the feelings about the US-Mexican border fence, new community service projects for sexually abused children, entrepreneurial endeavors in the home decorating business, trends to take high costs out of medical care through city clinics, and economic development plans that foster business incubators for new ventures. I’ve been intrigued by how the postal service helps bust drug dealers. And, I’ve been surprised to learn that I can pay $45 to the American Red Cross to learn mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to revive a non-breathing dog or cat. Club Assemblies are lively; I witnessed three as a visiting Rotarian. I particularly enjoyed one Club Assembly where everyone spoke French. I could not follow the fast flow of words but the discussion seemed heated over plans for an upcoming fund raising event. Had I not done a “make-up”, I would have missed hearing the inspiring words of high school students as they delivered speeches giving their interpretation of The Four Way Test.

As a visiting Rotarian, I always find a welcome hand shake from someone who’s originally from an area near my home Club – a physician who left Monroeville to practice near St. Louis, a retired pastor in Livingston, Texas who lived in Greensburg and knows many of my Rotary friends, and a fellow PITT alumni in Canton, New York who attended the University in the ‘60s some 10 years before me. When my daughter Suzie attended the Rotary Club of Fulton as my guest, we joined the celebration for her professor’s surprise 40th birthday party. I think Suzie’s presence surprised him more than the black “Over the Hill” balloons and tombstone-shaped cookies. I’ve been asked more than once with a laugh, “How’d you get a seat at that table?” when I take a chair at a table of longtime Rotary friends. I just smile and say, “I heard this guy’s is a celebrity.” One time the guy I pointed to was really a local TV star.

There’s no real penalty for missing a weekly meeting unless you’re a member of the Rotary Club of Edinburg. They’ll put you in the dog house! Rotarians who chronically miss the Club’s meetings are seated at a table with a wooden dog house as the centerpiece. It’s a light-hearted reminder to attend meetings or do a “make-up”.

I’m not trying to stay out of “the dog house”, rather I think of a missed meeting in another way. It’s a missed opportunity to connect with like-minded people and enhance a visit to a town whether the trip is for business or pleasure. Making up is a fun way to enjoy a good meal, sometimes sing a Rotary song, learn something new, and expand my circle of friends.

June 2, 2008

Rotary is an international service organization with 1.2 million members in 32,814 clubs worldwide.

The object of Rotary is to encourage and foster the ideal of service as a basis of worthy enterprise.

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