Published in the Delaware County Daily Times March 21, 2019
By Joseph Batory. Times Columnist
Dakota Meyer, the first living US Marine to receive the Medal of Honor since 1973 and one of the youngest ever, delivered a thought-provoking speech at a Rotary Conference at the Springfield County Club on Saturday, March 16. Sergeant Meyer of course recounted his amazingly heroic episode in Afghanistan …but he also offered a powerful philosophy. Here is my paraphrasing of his words: A life that has meaning begins with WHY, your set of firm beliefs, and then that WHY creates the WHAT of a life that matters.
Sergeant Dakota’s message that day was directed at the many area Rotary Club attendees who were listening to his presentation. He reinforced the idea that caring and trying to improve the world for others is the WHY for most Rotarians which then creates their WHAT—a ton of good things happening for those in need, locally and beyond!
Rotary is focused on coming from the heart, “giving” with the primarily goals of: Improving literacy, providing clean water where there is none, fighting disease, creating better maternal and child care, and promoting peace. But the humanitarian activities of its 36,000 clubs also create a much greater myriad of “good stuff” for others in need, locally and worldwide.
Albert Einstein, a genius of the first order, once stressed “giving to receive” as the best WHY for a meaningful life: …We are all here for the sake of others, for countless souls with whom we are connected as human beings…my life has been built upon the countless labor of people who have heled me, and so, I must give for all that I have received.
During my nearly 30 years as a Rotary member, initially in the Upper Darby Rotary Club and more recently with the Rotary Club of Philadelphia, I have been involved with many humanitarian activities, but there is one that especially stands out. Just a few years ago, I agreed to serve on the Rotary District 7450 scholarship committee for the 50+ Rotary Clubs in Greater Philadelphia (there are more than 10 Rotary Clubs just in Delaware County).
I became involved in helping 12 students from this area to obtain fully subsidized Rotary International scholarships to study abroad. And my wife (Joan) and I also counseled and befriended 23 Rotary scholars from around the world who have studied in Philadelphia. In addition to that, I was the advisor for two Philadelphia Police Officers and two Philadelphia Assistant District Attorneys in their acquisition of fully subsidized Rotary Peace Fellowships for cutting edge violence prevention study in Bangkok, Thailand.
And so, I could easily highlight any number of my experiences with these student scholars, or even some marriages/romances that have occurred between Rotary scholars studying here at Philadelphia universities. But this is just one story about the powerful impact of Rotary on my heart.
It all began when my wife and I welcomed a young man from Japan (Makoto Kuwabara) to Philadelphia as he began his studies at the University of Pennsylvania. Makoto promptly informed us that his wife (Chihiro) would be joining him in a few days to be by his side while he pursued his master’s degree. This was a bit unusual for a visiting student, but I looked forward to Chihiro’s arrival.
When Chihiro arrived in Philadelphia, I inquired how things were going. Makoto told me his wife was very sick with vomiting and nausea. I knew that Chihiro had given up a good job as a flight attendant and coupled with that and coming to live in the USA, I assumed she was under great stress. I urged Makoto to immediately take Chihiro to the University of Pennsylvania Hospital. On my follow-up telephone call to Makoto, I was flabbergasted to learn that the medical diagnosis was that Chihiro was pregnant. On top of that, Makoto was quite upset because the hospital had scheduled a follow-up appointment a distant three months down the road.
This young couple was understandably nervous…. first child and all. So, I took the extra Rotary step of “giving,” and arranged a private appointment with a Delaware County obstetrician to help the expectant couple. On the way to the doctor, I directed the Japanese couple to ask many questions (“This is your first child so this is no time to be shy.”)
Once we got to the doctor’s office, Chihiro and Makoto suddenly begged me to come with them into the examination room. I was terrified and reluctant. Afterall, I was only their American counselor who had just met them. But Chihiro and Makoto literally dragged me with them to meet the doctor.
I was soon very pleased when my Japanese pupils quizzed the doctor rigorously in many areas regarding the pregnancy. I had trained them so well!
But then the unexpected happened! The doctor exclaimed “Let’s have a look at the baby!” and instructed Chihiro to pull up her blouse, I wanted to run for cover. I barely knew this young couple. But there was nowhere to escape in the small examining room. Suddenly, through the wonder of modern technology, the parents to be and their adopted USA Rotary grandfather (me) were looking at a fetus.
Soon, the ultrasound machine which showed the “growing baby” began beeping loudly and regularly. I was certain that something was wrong. Makoto, still following my “exceptional training,” inquired as to what the machine was telling us. And the doctor answered with a warm smile: “There is no problem. We are listening to and seeing the heart of your child.”
In that marvelously beautiful moment, I had one of the most memorable experiences of my life, one that deeply touched my Rotary heart.
Manaka Kuwabara was a healthy birth in Philadelphia and now lives with her parents and a younger sister (Hiroka) in Japan. Through Skype and email, my wife and I still communicate with our adopted Kuwabara family in Japan.
Sergeant Meyer and Rotary members understand full well the WHY. It drives their WHAT! The reward is not about money or riches, but with something much more wonderful, giving to others and receiving in return. As for me, Rotary has been and still is: All about the Heart!
Joseph Batory has been a member of Rotary for nearly 30 years.