Thursday, December 25, 2014

Rotary GSE- A life changing experience

GSE: A life changing experience

When people said a trip to the USA was a life time experience, I did not want to believe them. After all, engineering students got their passports before their final year degree marks cards. And I knew that.
There was no glamour attached to 'going to the USA' any longer, or so I thought.
However, I decided 'to go' as my family and friends seemed to be proud of such an act.
To start with, the selection was tough and grilling and I had to study some sites on Rotary International and India in general for the interview. I had stiff competition but managed to scrape through.
This preparation for the test gave me another reason for wanting to go to the USA. I saw that, that country had progressed from the land of cow boys to the breeding ground of successful entrepreneurs. And I wanted to learn the secret behind its success. My all expenses paid tour may not just be a jolly trip. It may result in some lessons in economics for my countrymen after all!   This thought lingered on in my mind from the day I filled the GSE form to the mid night we were received at the airport at Pensacola, Florida.
But once we set foot on the snow white sands of Florida, my world view began to change. It slowly dawned on to me that I was looking for one thing but ended up learning something else.
I had gone to the USA to explore its mind that meant business, but ended up finding out that it had a heart larger than I could comprehend. The people who created unprecedented wealth across the World lived in that country. However, their hearts were filled with love for people from halfway across the Globe, whom they had neither met nor ever heard of.
If anyone were to ask me what was the most important outcome of my trip, I would show them my address book in my e-mail account. It has doubled since I returned. I think I made as many friends in those 42 days as I did in my 16 years of school and college life. These are not just acquaintances. These are people with whom you look forward to life time relationships. This year, for example, I sent mother's day cards to all my hosts.
Another revealing thing about an American's life is his commitment to see that he helps his fellow men in whatever way he can.
Contrary to popular opinion, the American does not work 24 hours a day. A significant part of his day is reserved for charity and community service. Their sincerity and commitment literally brought tears to my eyes in two places; the Horizons home for the mentally challenged in Fort Walton Beach run by my host Prof. David Miller and Panama City Rescue Mission of Rev. Billy Fox who hosted team member Manoj.
Individuals like GSE Chair Kathy Horton Brown and her husband Ted, Prof. Carl Beckman and Assistant Governor and Rotarian of the year (2005-2006) Jeannie Quave and others, have left a lasting impression on me. I felt they were as concerned about people on the street, as they were about their family members. And they did not sit quiet complaining about the bad things in life. They discovered innovative ways to help the underdog and worked hard to implement their ideas.
I think Rotary deserves all the credit for getting together these sweet individuals and make them work at a common aim. As Kathy beautifully put it:" The good thing about Rotary is that you don't have to go looking for good people. They are all around you".
Before leaving, I asked Rev. Billy Fox  what was the reward for being good. He smiled and said:" If some one asks me why be good, I ask him right back why not (be good)?"
This, for me, is a lesson for life. And this explains why my GSE tour has been a life changing experience for me and many others. I cant be wrong as some of our hosts and the Past Governor of the host district John Tice said the same thing! (Eom)

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