Amidst all these scenes of war, my thoughts often turn to Rotary and Rotary ideals.
I want to show some of my companions exactly what the Rotary ideal is and on Thursdays my mind at 1 o’clock is sort of transmigrated to the Bears Paw, and over my Dixie can of Army stew, my gastronomic mind dwells on the Rotary luncheon.
Ah, little did I think when grumbling and ‘grousing’ (British army idiom for subdued dissatisfaction) about the quality, quantity and price-for-value of that meal a day was coming when, amid the devastation of places where the great guns roar, I would almost sell my soul for the congenial company of that table, and amidst the “mud of Flanders” most sincerely and whole-heartedly apotheosize that self-same meal.
The war zone is hardly a place to expect a living revelation of the Rotary belief, but if the inner history of the men out here could be known and the acts of their lives recorded, how many, many truly Rotary deeds could be recorded?
Our English motto (which I do not really care for nearly as much as the Sheldonian original) “Service – not Self” is really a truism of thousands of men out here.
You can have no idea of the many, many little kindnesses and helps a newcomer out here gets from the old stagers and how many of us men unused to hard manual labour have had timely help and encouraging words from those who are really used to the life.
In Rotary we have a force, still largely latent, which when our movement does actually become truly and really International, then nations will learn that each for itself is a basis for business, civil and national life which is fundamentally wrong and is rotten to the very core; and through the operations of the relationship of Rotarian with fellow Rotarian, of Rotary club with Rotary club, of national association with national association, will the whole world’s politics be brought, through individual civic and national understanding, to the true ideal of “Each for all and all for each” in which such atrocities as wars and international wrangles and jealousies will be condemned not merely as inexpedient, but as absolutely immoral; and nation will realise its mutual dependence upon nation and, in so doing, making war will be an absolutely impossible atrocity with its unspeakable horrors and its needless waste of both material and natural resources and its cruel bloodlust which, at this moment, is holding human life of so little value.
Let this be Rotary’s grand aim through the coming years – then posterity will rise to praise and honour the names of Paul Harris and the faithful few who helped him raise the movement his great heart planned in the humble, but now historic birth, of the Chicago Club.
As time here is awkward for letter writing, please make this letter my heartiest New Year greeting to Rotary, its Association and the many friends from whom my late father and I have received so many evidences of the true meaning of Rotary membership.