Posted by Jim Fitzgerald
Rotary has struggled for more than a hundred years to shed the image of being a secretive bunch of old men trying to control the affairs of the community for their own gain.  From the very beginning, Rotarians themselves, have struggled to define and express in words, what it means to be a Rotarian.  That was not a problem for a Marshall newspaper editor/reporter nearly a century ago…
The headline of his editorial in “The Marshall Messenger” Main Edition, page 4, August 29, 1919 was startling in its own right, but what followed was the most insightful and stirring piece I have ever read.  
Written by H. C. Henderson, “The News and Telegraph Editor” of the paper and written in the days before computers and word processors, in long-hand, or manually typed, is noteworthy not only for its length, but for revealing the remarkable way he had been affected by this new concept of a Rotary Club after only a few weeks of exposure. 
Rotary was only 14 years old at the time he sat down to write this piece.  But, few people, before or after, have ever described so vividly the benefits of being a Rotarian.
He was just a reporter covering this new organization, but it is obvious that he had been listening and paying attention for the first few weeks he attended the meetings.  He may have been trying to impress his bosses or someone in the club, but the earnestness and excitement of this man is so eloquently expressed, in the headline he gave to this little article:
“I Would Rather Be a Rotarian In Marshall than a King in Paradise”
 by, H. C. Henderson
    It is really hard to think of anything more enjoyable than a pleasant Thursday noon when one is lucky enough to be invited to sit at the luncheon table with the members of the Rotary Club.

    The electric fans are humming the tune of comfort and coolness, there is merry making in a conservative way, laughing that drives away any shadows that business cares may cast across the scene of the mind, and best of all, there is the fellowship in which a person can recreate with peace, with the satisfaction of knowing in his very soul, that there is companionship and friendship of the choicest sort, just as thick as New Orleans molasses and, well—to be perfectly blunt, it is too good to be put down on a piece of common newspaper on such as these words find their way into print.

    The group first conceiving the idea of a little circle of businessmen coming together once a week about a common table to sift down individual matters in a collectively sieve, to work down the rough places to a smooth plane; took a stride toward the achievement of a true democracy that is not given the honor and the credit justly do it.

    Most of us are inclined and it is but human inclination to slip away by ourselves and consume our every ounce of energy and striving to our respective ends in the world of Commerce or profession. We build great walls about us that exclude the sunlight of fellowship, and we see our own troubles and worries grow into vast mountains that frown down upon us with a menacing scowl.  In the course of a few years by a gradual labor we construct such a contrivance in which to run the tread mill of life, as will ultimately and inevitably prove our swift destruction.
    It is not a vague and ethereal fancy or a speculation.  In Marshall it is possible to walk down the street and pick out those who are in such a shape. You may stand before the store belonging to this citizen and say to yourself; “Yes I knew him when he was interested a little bit in what was going on.  But a while ago he seemed to suddenly forget all his friends and associates.  He shrank back into the farthermost corner of his shell and there he remained, lo these many years.”
.... The chances are the man of whom we speak is one who went farther along the pathway that we are all treading, more or less, than the balance of us have gone.  Maybe he didn't have any encouragement from his fellow workers to stay his toddling off onto the tangent to be drifted away from the vigorous current into this stagnant pool on the side.  Perhaps. It isn't his fault solely.  Possibly part of the blame for his becoming a recluse rests upon the shoulders of the balance of us.  It is something to think about to say the least.
    We are all like logs sent down a mountain stream from the little corner in the security of the hills, where the lumbering is in progress.  We are cast into those waters that rush with all the life and energy of a wild colt, to fly headlong down to the terminal.  Some bear out boldly into the main stream and go spinning along with ease and agility.  Others, you will notice, stand sort of halfway in between the rapid current and the second, or slow one. They do not move so lively.  Once in a while a log in the speedy group lurches ahead and gives a push to the less fortunates that aids them in their course, and they derive a little benefit this way.  Then there are a few that fall along the side.  They get where the weeds are thick, and the moss has become entangled and luxuriant through long isolation.  This is the part of the stream where the water is filled with the rotting vegetation and the mosquitos raise large families during the summer months.  The logs getting off on the side may move a few feet a day, but their progress is slow, and the balance of the group, though they may not be a bit more symmetrical, or wonderfully built, go vaulting along only to leave them behind, forgotten and hopeless.  Unless a logger comes along and gives them a swift push out into mid-stream, encourages them and helps them, the first thing you know they will have rotted away, lost the solidness that is health and success, and be but miserable waste and blemishes. 
    The trend of modern business is the stream, the houses [businesses], are the logs.  We have many in the center of the life-giving current it is a sure, then there are a few that move with the half speed of the secondary force.  There are others that have become caught in the peals of this of stagnation and decay. We can see them too. 
To the first class the rotary club is merely a better ideal toward which to work.  To the second it serves as a power for development, but to the latter it gives the greatest of help, because there it is the logger who passes by with the grappling hook and drags the unfortunate out where he will have half a chance.  We can think of no better way to sum it up than this, and it would seem through study of the situation that in Marshall the three distinct duties expressed are being fulfilled and fulfilled well, though the local club has been in existence but a period of a few months.
One does not always see and realize these things at the outset.  The greatest changes that come into our lives are those we are the least aware of and sitting at the luncheon table with the three score of men, it is easy to look into the face of each and make a guess as to just what benefit he is deriving from that companionship, that getting down to the very bedrock of association.  Many times, these speculations may turn out to be just the reverse, but this rule is not In invariable. 
    What more can a man ask in the times of trouble and travail than to sit down to a meal with his friends, those who are suffering the same pangs and the identical misgivings, those who have the same wrinkle of worry and care in their faces as we find in our very own?  Indeed, “it is a consummation devoutly to be wished” that we may strive together today so in tomorrow we will reap the results of our cooperative labor and the satisfaction of knowing that it was all work done with a will, with the greatest possible ease, work done as men labor together in the field of Time.
    We would rather gather with those friends at the rotary club right here in Marshall on a Thursday noon then live forever in the biggest palace the mind of man ever put into stone and wood and built an iron fence around, with the forbidding words posted in conspicuous places “No Trespassing”.  
    One goes away from that meeting of an hour with the feeling of rest and enjoyment in his very soul.  He goes back to his work and the old place he finds, has taken on a very different aspect.  It doesn't seem so cramped and crowded as it did before.  Somehow or another it isn't possible to get up quiet as much worry about the trivial little matters as it was in the morning.  You heard Jim Smith tell what an awful time he had been having and you recollect that Tom Jones suffered a lot of pestiferous little trials too.  And then the things that literally scared the life out of you scamper away.
Not as many people as should, can really understand the significance about those Thursday noon luncheons, and the store of wonderful ideas that can be reaped from them.  It is nice to hear the message of some stranger, it is a delightful privilege to pay attention to one who is talented.  Such numbers are diversions and they rest us by taking our minds off of our own selves for a while.  But they are not the greatest things of the session, just as that simple little meal is not the paramount consideration when you get down to the bottom of the matter.  It is the fact you get a chance to see that fellow you have been storing up hate to heap upon is very much like yourself, and while you may be actually surprised to discover that he hasn’t horns, you are, absolutely made, to like him better than you did before.  There is no use denying it enemies gather about the board as well as friends, but if in that hour they do not have an opportunity to see a few good things, to study a few situations, then they are mildewed beyond repair and it is hopeless.
With Marshall climbing daily to become a city, to cast off her burdens and march with a steady tread into the future, she may offer a deep prayer of gratitude and thanks that the Rotary club has come into her midst to make better citizens for they work she will lay in their hands, and to make men learn from each other the truths that humanity as preached for so long and fallen so far short of attaining for these many years. H. C. H.