Face-to-face contact with people in need brings Rotary to life for a Florida Rotarian.
轉載自扶輪月刊2003/10 / THE ROTARIAN 2003/09
Every true Rotarian has a story to tell, a defining moment that captures what Rotary is all about. In this issue we offer another installment of "Rotary story," a regular feature in which individuals describe how the hands-on experience of being a Rotarian — putting Service Above Self — has affected their lives.
A car accident in 1982 drove Rotary head-on into John Smarge's life. A newlywed from New Jersey, USA, Smarge had recently moved to Naples, Fla., to run a moving and storage company. He was visiting with friends in Venice, just up the Gulf Coast, when a teenager driving without headlights on rammed into his car. Smarge wrenched his neck in the collision and soon began seeing Naples chiropractor Phil Smith for treatments. Smith eventually invited him to a Rotary lunch — a meal that changed his life.
"It wasn't the rubber chicken," Smarge jokes today. "What wowed me was the club roster. It listed everyone important in town: the newspaper publisher, the head of the hospital, judges, CEOs, people I recognized from the news. I'd never heard of Rotary. But I just thought: What a great opportunity to make powerful friends and network for business. I learned later that Paul Harris began Rotary in 1905 for similar reasons. He was new to Chicago and wanted friends and business contacts. But Paul Harris realized the club couldn't survive on fellowship and self-interest alone. It needed Service Above Self. That's how I came to feel, too."
Then just 22, Smarge became the youngest of the 140 members of the Rotary Club of Naples. However, he found it difficult to feel part of the group at first and even contemplated quitting. His wife, Cindy, advised him: "Volunteer for something and maybe they'll get to know you." So Smarge offered to drive two high school students to an upcoming Rotary Youth Leadership Awards (RYLA) program at Florida Southern College in Lakeland.
The three-hour drive was unnerving; the students were so introverted that neither spoke. Four days later when Smarge returned for them, he attended the final session in which the high schoolers, who came from all across the state, debated topics that included single parenthood, premarital sex, and the death penalty. It was Smarge's first exposure to a Rotary program, and he was surprised at the students' probing maturity. Still, he dreaded another silent ride home with his timid charges.
But they surprised him too. "Suddenly," he recounts almost proudly, "these two painfully shy kids had become excited, focused young adults. They couldn't stop talking! After one week of this leadership seminar, they were completely transformed. I thought: If a Rotary program can have such a monumental impact on youth in my community, this is worth my commitment. I didn't know what I wanted to do in Rotary. I just knew I'd found a home, and that there was relevance in this organization that I'd been coming to simply for lunch."
That epiphany was the first of two defining experiences in Smarge's Rotary career. The second occurred 16 years later. In January 1998, after serving as a representative to the Council on Legislation (Rotary's legislative body) in New Delhi, India, Smarge journeyed to Rotary District 3040 in central India, where U.S. Rotarians, including members of his club, hoped to sponsor a water project. Since a polio National Immunization Day (NID) was scheduled throughout India the next day, Smarge decided to participate in that as well. He wanted to visit a rural area, where most of India's poor live.
"Before India," he admits, "I always preached passionately about supporting our international projects, but I didn't really have the passion because I'd never done one myself. I'd read The Rotarian, attended international conventions, and talked to people who'd done them. But it took being there and meeting the people and experiencing their needs firsthand to fully appreciate what we do. It was my first real education in Rotary."
Accompanied by Indian Rotarians, he traveled in a 20-year-old compact car through narrow lanes teeming with reckless drivers, oblivious pedestrians, bicycles, scooters, ox carts packed with riders, rickshaws, dogs, cows, and even the occasional elephant. "It was exactly what I was after," claims Smarge. "I was immersed in the environment of the people we came there to help."
He visited a village 30 miles outside the busy city of Ujjain to discuss the proposed water project with the residents. The project never came about, but his contact with the people left a lasting impression. His most moving experiences occurred the following day in a grim slum outside Ujjain, where Smarge participated in his first NID.
"I had never witnessed poverty like that," he recalls. "I remember walking on a dirt path and noticing a little girl cupping her hands to drink from a filthy creek. It was the same stream where, just meters ahead, a woman was washing clothes and a man was defecating."
When he arrived at the immunization site — a crude lean-to — he encountered a long line of young girls anxiously holding babies. Babies holding babies, Smarge thought, as he was quickly put to work.
At first, he felt awkward administering the two-drop doses of vaccine. He was wrestling with his own anxieties, thinking about all the required immunizations he'd taken before leaving the United States and his doctor's warning to avoid contact with others' bodily fluids (a constant presence on the children he was to immunize). He realized: "Here you are, doing what you were warned not to do, because that's why you came here in the first place: to help. So start helping." After immunizing the first few children, something remarkable happened. A reluctant young mother refused to hand her crying baby to Smarge. "I remember her vividly," he says. "She was obviously nervous about the process, probably wondering, Who is this strange man? What is he doing?" Finally, a health worker reassured her and she relented. Smarge administered the drops and handed the infant back to the mother. "Suddenly, she looked at me and smiled with relief. That smile was the most telling event of my trip," he says, still touched. "It went right to the heart. I saw in her eyes that she knew what had happened. In that moment, she knew those two drops meant her baby would not become a 'crawler' on the streets, a 'nothing' in the local parlance. It brought her a hope that she'd never known."
Smarge shared that moment of hope, profoundly moved. "I was spellbound. I understood then what Rotary meant. It was what I had preached for years. Here I was, personally saving lives. And who am I? I'm just a mover, not a doctor; there are very few opportunities for me to save a life. But I did! I immunized 60 children. And I saw that one incredible smile of gratitude. That renewed my faith that I really was doing good, that all my speeches and all the hours I invested in preaching support were worth it. I promised myself that I would work a lifetime to be worthy of such gratitude. And in everything I've done in Rotary since, I've had complete faith that it would create the same gratitude in anyone we helped. In October 2000 in Ukraine, for example, I saw that gratitude again in the eyes of a doctor who'd just received, through Rotary, his first pair of surgical gloves, when the day before he'd operated with his bare hands."
Smarge's experiences in India "drove home more urgently how much more Rotary has to do," he says.
「即使我再也沒見過我們試著幫忙的人，我在那裡的時間將永遠激勵我為扶輪竭盡全力，無論是說服扶輪社友支持國際服務計劃，或是到學校向學生宣揚服務的意義，或是對新扶輪社社長演說，提醒他們前國際扶輪社長克蘭．雷諾夫(Clem Renouf )曾說過的：『扶輪讓平凡人有不平凡的機會，用他們的生命做得比他們想像得到還要多的事。』」
"Even if I never again meet the people we're trying to help, my time there will always inspire me to do whatever I can for Rotary, whether it's persuading clubs to support international projects or visiting schools to promote the gift of service to young people or addressing new club presidents to remind them of what Past RI President Clem Renouf once said: 'Rotary takes ordinary people and gives them extraordinary opportunities to do more with their lives than they had ever dreamed possible.'
"Rotary is the single greatest humanitarian organization this world has ever known," Smarge says. "As leaders of your clubs, you have the rare opportunity to change someone's life through your acts of compassion. Embrace that with all your heart and change your life while you're changing the world."
作者：史坦柏格(Alan Steinberg)曾在8月就英文扶輪月刊(THE ROTARIAN)撰寫西蒙絲的扶輪故事。
Alan Steinberg profiled D'Lisa Simmons in the August issue of The Rotarian.