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A Road I Have Traveled

 

The following article, which appeared in The Rotarian in February of 1934, is the first of a series of messages from the men who have been at the helm of the movement that has become Rotary International. Paul P. Harris reflects on his 29 years of Rotary, and how the friends and friendships that he has made have improved his life. He opines that all mankind could benefit from a similar attitude.

 

The series, called a Past President's Page, ran in the Rotarian in the mid 1930s. Those submitting Past President's Pages included Paul Harris, Glenn Mead, Russell Greiner Frank Mulholland, Allen Albert and Arch Klumph.

 

Doug Rudman

 

A Road I Have Traveled

By Paul P. Harris

Founder of Rotary and First President (1910-12)

 

The hills of Wallingford VT, where Paul spent his childhood, click to visitIT BEGAN as a path over hills and through dales, but the cool mists of morning were in the air, and the rising sun gave promise of a fair day. The path soon widened into a road, the road into a turnpike, and the turnpike into a super-highway.

 

Man has affinity for his fellow man, regardless of race, creed, or politics, and the greater the variety, the more the zest. All that friendliness needs is a sporting chance; it will take care of itself in any company. Friendly salutation brings friendly response even if it has to be flung from the trenches across "No Man's Land."

 

Man yearns for happiness and tries devious ways to realize it. The customary and, at the same time, the most futile way is through the acquisition of great possessions. They more frequently make against happiness than for it. Great possessions often separate men from old and valued friends.

 

They who build mansions in which to entertain their friends, frequently find themselves without friends to entertain.

 

I have made some delightful friends along the Rotary way. They hail from North, South, East, and West; they are far better than great possessions. When clouds hang low, there is no music so sweet as the voice of a friend. It drives dull care away; it has therapeutic value and dispels gout, rheumatism, dispepsia, and whatsoever else ails one. It performs miracles, banishes fear, and, under its spell, aches and pains are forgotten.

 

I know a man much given to worry. He worries at times in fear that he is about to die and at other times in fear that he is not about to die. He even worries lest he run out of things to worry about.

He has nursed a case of indigestion for several years and in the privacy of his own home seldom ventures beyond shredded wheat biscuit. He went to a banquet recently and to the accompaniment of song and laughter ran the entire gamut–from soup to nuts–and went home none the worse for it.

 

Many of our illnesses are traceable directly to worry. There is nothing to send worry flying like a neighborly call. Is there a gate in the fence between your property and your neighbor? If not, put one there and see that the path that leads to it is well worn. If your neighbors favor you some time with an unexpected call at tea time, don’t let that frustrate you. Rejoice in the opportunity presented. Pull up extra chairs and put the kettle on. You will sleep peacefully the night after a neighborly call.

 

FRIENDLINESS pays in a material sense as well as spiritual. It pays, whether one be prince or pauper, minister plenipotentiary or the most menial servant. None can afford to be without it.

 

Friendliness is not a lone star; it is one of a constellation. Its sister stars are kindliness, neighborliness, and cheeriness; they are scarcely less luminous.

 

Rotary is fortunate in having begun its long trek at this period of the world's history. The twentieth century is proving to be the best of all centuries. There are, to be sure, those who are still looking back to the "good old times." The best of the "good old times" was worse than the worst of the present period. With their inquisitions, dungeons, stocks, and other ingenious means of inflicting torture upon those whose only offence was in having risen above the average in intelligence, the stalwart bulwarks of generations past made the gangsters, racketeers, and swindlers of the present day look like angels of mercy.

 

The death knell of civilization was not rung during the year of our Lord 1929. That year marked the beginning of a new era, one of advanced understanding, greater consideration, forbearance, tolerance, and kindliness.

 

Rotary club meetings generate friendliness and the desire to be useful. My twenty-nine years of travel along the Rotary trail convinces me that friendliness makes for health and happiness.

 

Smiles are the badges of friendliness. There are plenty of them within you. Do not hold them captive. Set them free at right times and places and their beneficent effects will carry to the very gates of eternity.

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