There is a story told in my Hindu tradition of two sages, Shaunaka and Abhipratari. They were worshippers of Prana, the wind god. One day, the two men were about to sit down to lunch when a poor student knocked on their door, asking for food.
“No, boy, do not bother us at this hour,” was the reply. The student was surprised but very hungry, so he persisted.
“Tell me, honored sirs, which deity do you worship?”
“Prana, the wind god,” they answered impatiently.
“Do you not know that the world begins and ends with wind, and that wind pervades the entire universe?”
The two sages were by now very irritated by their impertinent guest. “Of course we know it!” they replied.
“Well, then,” continued the student, “if Prana pervades the universe, then he pervades me also, since I am but part of the universe. He is also in this hungry body, which stands before you begging for a bite to eat! And so in denying food to me, you deny it to the very deity whom you say you serve.”
The sages realized the student spoke the truth and invited him to enter and share their meal. For they understood, at that moment, that by opening the door to one who sought their help, they were not only serving that individual – but reaching toward a larger goal.
Our experience of Rotary is, for the most part, based in our own communities. We meet every week in our clubs, in the same places, with the same familiar friends. While almost all of us are involved in some way or other in international service, the Rotary we see and share from day to day feels very local. It can be easy to lose sight of the larger picture – of what our service truly means.
Every impact you have as a Rotarian, individually and through your club, is multiplied by the power of our numbers. When you feed one person who is hungry, when you educate one person who is illiterate, when you protect one child from disease, the impact may seem small. It is anything but. For it is only through the power of numbers, through the power of our individual actions and gifts, that we can have the impact we seek: to truly Be a Gift to the World.