I moved back to Phoenix and Lui, my grandfather, proudly says to me, "I'm glad you moved back to Phoenix and joined the Rotary Club!" I respond skeptically... "what's the rotary club?" He says, "Don't worry about it we'll see you on Wednesday at lunch." He's my grandpa, I listened.
I walk into a back room at El Charro's Mexican Restaurant off Lincoln Dr in Paradise Valley. There are 5 or 6 round tables all with a few open seats, a podium at the front with an attached microphone, and hundreds of banners that looked like they were from around the world. This was going to be new.
I sat down at the same table with my grandpa and struck up conversations with the other guys there. Lui is kind of a legend in Rotary because he used to drive his club's hook-and-ladder fire truck in the Fiesta Bowl Parade covered with the Rotary big dogs. It made for good conversation before the meeting started.
Frank Wagner hit the judge-like wooden hammer against the brass bell and everyone stood up, we were underway. Prayer. Pledge of Allegiance. First time I've said the Pledge of Allegiance in a while. Happy Bucks. Joke of the Day. Birthdays. We sang happy birthday to whoever's bday was during that week. Program. 4-Way Test. And we're out. Wow. That was different. So I went back the following week. That was in 2006 and I've been a member ever since, even the President one year.
Here's the deal. Even though it wasn't a digital powerpoint type of group, they had something else. Their cool came from being a group of experienced business people joining forces to do good deeds around the community. Joining them was cool to me because it was something outside the norm with a group of people I felt I could learn a lot from.
So what is Rotary to me? Well that answer has changed over the last 8 years. When I joined I was in my mid-20's. It was somewhat of a training ground, a routine breaker, and has turned into a business channel for my real estate business. It's a way to give back to the community and it's a way to be part of a world-wide organization that does meaningful projects in foreign countries.
If you're looking to break up your normal routine and join a bunch of locals for lunch. Stop by, we'd love to hear your story!