Vail-area Rotary Clubs all stress the motto, ‘service above self,’ in their work
The Edwards Rotary Club is a tremendously important part of my life and one of the bedrocks of my existence in this community. I am beyond lucky to have my blood relatives living here in the valley, but also to be able to turn to a second, extended family of 40-odd (but not necessarily odd) Rotarians for counsel, laughter and support.
Growing up in a household where helping others was of paramount importance, it was perhaps inevitable that I would become a Rotarian and a very specific kind of attorney. All good advice being essentially variations on a theme, the lessons imparted by my parents, by my legal mentors and by Rotary are largely congruent. Chief among them is the guiding principle of “Service above self.”
The mantra is both simple and complex. It contemplates subverting personal concerns to those of others. Sometimes, this is an incredible joy, as the force of a group of do-gooders brings smiles to those in need or a person is rescued from an all-consuming legal conundrum. In these instances, the self is as rewarded as those being served.
But, it is not always so sanguine. To truly subsume the self may call for suffering of a physical and/or psychological nature. Picking up trash in a cold, driving rain to beautify the town is not a particularly enjoyable endeavor. Nor is turning oneself inside out for a client’s cause, losing weeks or months of sleep as the battle over right and wrong rages, emerging victorious and not receiving so much as a thank you, let alone the promised payment. During these trying times, reference back to the core concept of “Service above self” is a salve to bodily and mental wounds. Indeed, the very idea requires coming to someone’s aid knowing full well that you will receive absolutely nothing in return.
Public service is often undertaken on behalf of an ungrateful populace. While more than a few of our alleged servants use this as an excuse to enrich themselves, the virtuous know that personal fulfillment is completely beside the point. Teachers are not in it for the money or the meager thanks that they receive from a tiny minority of pupils and parents. They have giving souls. Judges walk away from lucrative practices to toil daily in the often mucked-up trenches of the legal system. They may wield a certain power, but they are also heavily criticized by at least one side of any dispute. It is a thankless task. Politicians are more of a mixed bag and, while some deserve high praise (thanks, Commissioners), many more should be pilloried or at the least re-educated.
In this most narcissistic of ages, taking a moment to contemplate the welfare of others seems almost award-worthy. It is not: Compassion is an elemental part of what it means to be a human being. An outward shift of consciousness is the only thing that will rescue our society from the dark path upon which we have embarked.
If you want to embrace this philosophy in the company of some of its foremost practitioners, then please come join Edwards Rotary Club at the Sonnenalp Club every Thursday morning at 7:45 a.m. We can never have enough selves keen to serve the community.
T.J. Voboril is a partner at Alpenglow Law LLC, a local law firm, and the owner and mediator at Voice Of Reason Dispute Resolution. For more information, contact Voboril at 970-306-6456, firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit http://www.alpenglowlaw.com.