The answer to the most frequent question is, by design, difficult and nebulous.
The Group Study Exchange program is fairly open-ended. Therein lies its beauty. There is no syllabus, no weekly quiz and no final examination. It is experiential, you learn as you go, and your expectations and capacities evolve.
I am sure we have each had our Admiral Stockdale moments over the last three weeks. “Why am I here?” Yes, my answer has refined itself several times, but the concepts remain consistent.
The Final Four, MLB’s Opening Day, springtime in the Midwest, Easter with family and loved ones. I have missed them all…this year. But they will come around again. This opportunity will not.
I am here because Rotary has grown to mean a great deal to me in the last several years. I am here because I still have a great deal to learn about Rotary. I am here because several Rotarians I respect a lot have participated in years and decades before me. I am here because I am smart enough to appreciate that the more I put into Rotary, the more I get back from it.
I am here because I do not know the finite answer, but each experience, each friendly face gets me closer.
I have said, over and over, that our experience improves with each city. That is likely an assessment of our capacity to appreciate the experience, as opposed to the quality of the hospitality from our hosts.
Our recent stay in Lapua will be nearly impossible to beat. Club President Jussi Taluitie (translated to “winter road”), at just a few years older than me, is decades younger than his club’s average age. He faces, with courage and conviction, the same things many of us face in the States, as a contributor to his community and as a small businessman. The breadth of his knowledge is amazing. His ability to succinctly explain it is even better. “When you open your heart, all else follows.”
Jussi--thank you for opening your heart and sharing your family, your community and yourself with us.