Last Tuesday I was the guest speaker at the Mount Joy Rotary Club. I had never been to a Rotary meeting before. I was not surprised the chicken was on the menu or that I could have three desserts if I wanted them. I was surprised at the opening of the meeting when we sang a song together. Service clubs like Rotary have existed long enough that singing together is one of their traditions.
We pledged allegiance to the flag, sang the national anthem and sang "Roll, Rotary, Roll."
The audience numbered about 30, mostly men and three women. I wore my uniform since I was speaking about serving in Iraq. After I was finished speaking one of the women said, "I saw you come in the building in uniform. I thought you were too old to be a soldier, but you explained how you got in."
Randy Wolgemuth, the president of the Mount Joy chapter gave me my opening joke. He asked how long I lived in Lancaster County. When I said 30 years, he said, "You're a native." I said, "No way!" When I got up to speak I told the audience what Randy said, then told them about about something I heard from a Mount Joy resident 30 years before. In 1980, I met Harold and Helen Keller. They were in their mid 50s at the time. They had lived in Mount Joy in the same house since they got married 30 years before. They raised eight kids and were active in their Church and the community. But Harold told me there was a group of women in their 70s and 80s who lived on their street who still referred to them as "The Kellers from Manheim." Manheim is the next town to the northeast, five miles away.
I spoke mostly about the men and women I wrote about while I was in Iraq. As I flashed their pictures up on the screen, I was wondering how they were doing now. Telling some of those stories again reminded me that I met some of the best people I have ever known in that miserable country.