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Have you been asked "Why Kiwanis?"

Jun 25, 2018
Brian July"Why Kiwanis?" has been asked of me more times than I can count. Honestly, I've kicked myself each time I walked away, unhappy with the answer I provided. We live in a sped-up world that likes to receive information in sound bites. The Kiwanis motto is: Serving the Children of the World. Somehow, saying that to someone who's inquired about my club or why I personally joined, it just doesn't fit. I've thrown in that the other members are great, meetings are interesting, selling Christmas trees is fun, working the Little League concession stand is a hoot, helping with Special Olympics and awarding scholarships makes me feel good. I'm willing to bet that every member of every service club has made similar statements about their service projects.

What I really want to say is this, "If you have a year, I can really show you why I joined Kiwanis." No doubt, the person staring at me with blank eyes upon hearing this declaration would instantly provide numerous excuses. I've heard them all: The meetings are too early. My (kids, job, family, hobbies, church, other commitments) take up my extra time. Isn't it a club for old people? I don't have extra money to pay dues. It's not my kind of thing. And, my spouse has put a kibosh on me joining anything else. 

I've raised my kids. I've interacted with people all my life. I know pleasantry lies hidden within partial shades of truth when I hear them. The underlying truth is that belonging to a service club entails a willingness to commit. Commitment without payback is what stops most people from ever attending one meeting. "There's nothing in it for me, and my time is valuable." I agree totally on the latter part. Time is valuable. It's the one thing in short supply, and it's what every service club wants from you. On the other part, I believe for some people it's the realization that once you taste the sweet elixir of providing service to others you can never go back to only worrying about yourself. I don't mean that to sound harsh — not at all. There can be a profound change in our lives and our personalities when we take up a cause for those who need our help, our time.

If you were to ask a person who works out diligently at the gym why they put themselves through the commitment of time and pain, they might tell you, "The immense feeling of satisfaction from completing my workout." That's Kiwanis: an immense feeling of satisfaction after completing a project that benefits mothers and children worldwide in eliminating tetanus and iodine deficiency disorders. It's the great feeling of being myself without pretense at meetings, no hidden agendas, no networking for leads and referrals, no worries about fitting in and doing the right things to get ahead. Serving the children and their families in any way that I am capable: That is the best feeling and the best me I can be. You are never too young, too old or too anything to not try something worthwhile.

I can't speak for all service clubs, but in general, this is who and what we are. Kiwanis International has been around for a hundred years, and we need you, all service clubs need and want you. Over 30 years ago, I attended my first Kiwanis meeting. I said all of those same excuses, not just to Kiwanis but also to the other groups asking me to come and see what they were about. I went, later joined and have been a member on and off for more than 30 years. I chose Kiwanis because of an act of kindness. During our first year of marriage at Christmas time, we had no extra money to buy a Christmas tree. It was a week before Christmas, and I walked past the Kiwanis club selling trees. I paused to look at the five "Charlie Brown" trees remaining on the lot. I've always felt that the man working the lot could sense that I didn't have extra money to buy a tree. Treating me with kindness, he offered any of the remaining trees to me free. It was their last night, and they were done for the season. If I didn't take one, it would only end up in the Dumpster. I had to take one; I had no choice. I've paid that kindness back numerous times over the years, as I've now become a seller of Kiwanis Christmas trees.

I'm a better individual for being a Kiwanian; for being shaped by the members, past and present, who've committed their time and talents to making our club vital; for continually being blessed and rewarded in my service to others and by being committed in lieu of the many excuses I could have brandished as an escape clause.

Brian MacLearn

Kiwanis Club of Greater Waverly, Iowa