Vocational service can be hard to define, but it is easy to describe: It is simply the point where our Rotary lives and our professional lives intersect. When we put our Rotary ideals to work through our work, that is vocational service.
When I returned to the Bahamas after many years working in health care administration abroad, I realized that my country badly needed a modern health care facility. The resources we had at the time were out of date and inadequate, and people who were unable to travel abroad for care often did not receive the care they needed. Without the experience I had gained in the United States, I could have done nothing to change the status quo. But since I did have that experience, I was in a unique position to have an impact. I knew I could turn my professional path to good and make a career out of improving Bahamian health care.
As Rotary became part of my journey, I discovered that the words of Paul Harris that became the basis of Rotary — that shared effort knows no limitations — were also true for my vocation. I could not bring modern health care to the Bahamas alone. But through partnership, both with the doctors who eventually became my partners in Doctors Hospital and with all the dedicated staff members who worked in the hospital over the years, we could change everything. My goal became a shared goal — and then it became reality.
Rotary emphasizes the dignity of every vocation and the worth of every calling. Remember that the four founding members included no doctors or peacemakers — just an attorney, a mining engineer, a coal dealer, and a printer. From the beginning, the diversity of those vocations gave Rotary a special strength. And that diversity is reflected in our classification system, which aims to ensure that each club represents the full range of businesses and professions that serve each community.
Paul Harris put it this way: “Each Rotarian is the connecting link between the idealism of Rotary and his trade or profession.” It was true when he said it and should be equally true now. We only spend an hour or two a week at our Rotary meetings, but most of us spend most of our waking time at work. Through Rotary, those hours are also an opportunity for service: a chance to Be the Inspiration to those we work with, those who work for us, and the communities we serve.
President, Rotary International