Rotary…A Matter of the Heart

Published on the Rotary International website “Voices”    April 14, 2014

Seven years ago, I agreed to serve on my district’s scholarship committee. Suddenly, I was in charge of this international program. I now have many fond memories of helping 12 students attain fully subsidized Rotary International scholarships abroad. And I have also counseled and befriended 23 Rotary scholars from around the world who have studied in Philadelphia.

I could easily highlight some of the “scholar characters” I have met or even some marriages/romances that have occurred among Rotary scholars studying here in Philadelphia, but I would rather emphasize just one story that illustrates the magnificence of Rotary.

Five years ago, 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 to be by his side while he pursued his master’s degree.

Surprising news

When Chihiro arrived in Philadelphia, I inquired how things were going, and 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 her to the University of Pennsylvania Hospital. On my follow-up telephone call, 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 given them an appointment three months down the road.

I took the extra Rotary step and arranged a private appointment with a friend of mine who is an obstetrician to help the expectant couple. On the way to the doctor, I counseled them to ask many questions. Once we got there, the Japanese couple begged me to come with them into the examination room. I was terrified and reluctant, but Chihiro and Makoto literally dragged me with them to meet the doctor.

I was then very pleased when Japanese pupils quizzed the doctor in many areas. I had trained them well!

However, when 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. But there was nowhere to escape in the small examining room. Suddenly, through the wonder of modern technology, parents and adopted Rotary grandfather (me) were looking at a fetus.

The ultrasound machine which showed the “baby-to-be” began beeping loudly and regularly. I was certain that something was wrong. But the parents, still following my “exceptional training,” calmly inquired what the machine was telling us. The doctor answered: “There is no problem. We are listening to and seeing the heart of your child.”

More wonderful than riches

In that marvelously beautiful moment, I had one of the most memorable experiences of my life, one that truly touched my heart, thanks to Rotary and its scholarship program. Manaka Kuwabara was a healthy birth in Philadelphia and now lives with her younger sister (Hiroka) and parents in Japan.

manaka pix august 2012  Manaka in 2012

Through Skype and email, my wife and I still communicate with the Kuwabara family.

This Rotary experience was all about heart! Rotary members who open themselves up to the experiences possible through Rotary get rewarded — not with money or riches, but with something much more wonderful.