Thirty years.  That’s a long time to do anything, especially in these days of rapid change, mobile workforces, and overcommitted calendars.  And yet somehow, quietly and steadily, I have survived nearly thirty years as a Rotarian.  Of course, I must have been a mere babe in arms when I joined because I don’t feel much older than that most days, but the calendar doesn’t lie. 
I have been blessed to be a member of five different clubs so far: Yellowknife, Winnipeg, Prince George Yellowhead, Sudbury, and now Edmonton.  Along the way, I have grown as an individual, found an outlet for some skills and passions, and learned a lot of lessons.  No matter which club I found myself in, however, there are some constants from my nearly three decades of Rotary experience.  However, being a preacher by training and prone to the pitfall of alliteration, here are my “constants” in my Rotary experience: connections, community, codes, commitment, and camaraderie.
Connections.  When I first joined Rotary, it was as a young leader in a community where I didn’t know a lot of people, and where I needed to establish some connections for the work I was being tasked with.  I was sponsored into the Yellowknife club by a member of my board, and immediately found it to be a great place to make connections with men and women (if was only a couple of years after Rotary International “saw the light” and allowed women to join!).  My fifteen years in that community would be have been drastically different if it were not for those early connections.  However, as I have been transferred around the country, I have continued to see that Rotary is an amazing place to make important and impactful connections.
Community.  Everywhere I have gone as a Rotarian, I have always been impressed and humbled by the impact that Rotary clubs across the country and around the world are making right where they are.  They are an important strand in the fabric of every community they are found and contribute to the health and vitality of their community.  In fact, everywhere you travel you will find Rotary parks, Rotary playgrounds, Rotary residences, and Rotary projects.  I often feel a swell of pride when I see the iconic Rotary wheel on projects in our city or anywhere else I travel.  Our community is richer because Rotary is a part of it.
Codes.  Simply put, the values and goals of Rotary, locally and internationally, resonate within me.  Whether that code is the daily practice of the four way test, or the intentional application of the object of Rotary especially as it relates to the high ethical standards within our individual professions and classifications, or the commitment to global peace and goodwill, I find a reverberation deep within that inspires me to be better and to encourage others to strive to be better.  In a world of constantly shifting values, it is encouraging to be part of an organization that can still hold firm to its values while changing to meet the challenges of a modern world.
Commitment.  I have been privileged to be a member in five very different clubs, from fairly new clubs like Yellowknife to old and established clubs like the Winnipeg Club – “the club that made Rotary international.”  Whether it is a smallish club of fifty members to a larger club of over a hundred and fifty members, the commitment demonstrated by fellow Rotarians has been amazing.  Whether it is aging Rotarians with fifty or more years of perfect attendance, or a new Rotarian who commits and throws herself into an exciting project, or a team of Rotarians who regularly travel around the world on international projects, I continue to be humbled by the depth of the commitment I see from Rotarians.  So many work so hard to make so much of a difference – and we should all be proud to wear the Rotary wheel as a result.
Camaraderie.  This one is a bonus.  We come together because of shared values and we work together for the good of the community, but the unexpected bonus is the camaraderie.  After nearly thirty years in Rotary, after dozens of community projects and programs, I would honestly say that the friendships are the facet of my Rotary experience I treasure the most.  Whether working shoulder to shoulder building a park, or traveling to an international convention, or working on a committee to develop a new youth program or sitting on the club board of directors, through it all deep, lasting friendships develop.  At the end of the day, though, isn’t that what it’s really about: the people, the relationships, the personal connection?
I consider myself to be blessed to have been given the privilege of membership in the world’s largest and oldest service organization – to live out my values in a creative way and to make a difference in my community.  More importantly, though, I consider myself to be blessed to get to know Rotarians across our great land and to count so many of them as my friends.
Al Hoeft
The Rotary Club of Edmonton (& Yellowknife & Winnipeg & Prince George Yellowhead and Sudbury)