Dane LaJoye 2014-05-13 11:48:36
What Does It Really Mean to be a Lion? Dear Lions, I’ve been your managing editor for 13 years. I edit this magazine, but I have penned an article on only one other occasion. Please indulge me. I read a story today. A woman at a grocery store with her three young children made her way to the cashier with a few, yet necessary, grocery items. She had some cheese, a package of noodles, bread, milk and a couple other things I frankly don’t recall. Enough, though, to make a meager dinner that night for her family. Enough so her children would not go to bed hungry. When the cashier rang everything up the total came to just over $17. Not much for most of us, but too much for her. She was using her EBT card–today’s version of what used to be called food stamps. In other words, welfare. But her card had no balance. The cashier explained the problem, and the woman was panicked. She rummaged through her purse hoping to find enough money to pay for at least one or two of the items, but discovered that like her EBT card, her purse was equally void of money. The embarrassment coupled with the thought of not being able to feed her children that night was too much. She was overcome with emotion. Just then, a woman behind her–a perfect stranger–presented a $20 bill to the cashier. With no promise of being paid back, this Good Samaritan, unselfishly and with nothing more than human compassion, paid for the groceries. It’s a notion called “pay it forward.” I learned a few things from that article. I’ve often been behind someone at the grocery store in a similar situation. I probably shook my head in disapproval or narrow-mindedly thought to myself it was his or her fault for not planning properly. Worse, I might have thought “why don’t they go out and get a job so they can take care of their family.” Or, “if they can’t afford to take care of their children, why did they HAVE children,” never once, of course, offering to help. Never once mustering enough compassion to offer any assistance. There is an old saying–one that I know I’ll remember from now on–“walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.” As it turns out, the woman in the story had been out of work for some time. So had her husband. They had been trying to find work but to no avail. They once lived comfortably, or at least had been able to provide for their family. But that was then, and this is now. They never thought this would happen to them. They never thought that all that would some day stand between them and putting dinner on the table would be an empty EBT card. We’re Lions. That’s right, I’m a Lion too. A proud Lion. I participate in my club activities when I can. I always donate to club projects, with time, money or both. I claim to be compassionate. But I question my sincerity. I haven’t had that “aha” moment as a Lion. You know–that moment when it really sinks in what being a Lion is all about. The moment when a Lion proclaims “I joined Lions in 1997, but I BECAME a Lion when …” I hope I have that moment. But I know now that moment doesn’t have to be connected to any club service project. I learned today that I’m not just a Lion when doing something with my club. I’m a Lion 24 hours a day–every day. We Serve. I Serve. Come to think of it, maybe this is my aha moment! I pledge from this day forward to be a better person and to put others before myself. I won’t always be able to offer to pay for someone’s groceries, but I’ll always be able to show kindness toward others, however small that act may be. That’s really what being a Lion is all about. The single most important attribute in being a Lion or becoming a Lion is a willingness to serve others–through big or small acts of kindness. And oh how we have served! Lions have been paying it forward since 1917. Changing lives, and, yes, making dreams come true. And now, beginning in 2014, I too will pay it forward and fulfill the oath I took when I joined the Chicago Windy City Lions Club. Pay it forward. Just three small words, yet beautiful in their simplicity and profoundly life-changing. Sincerely, Dane LaJoye, Managing Editor
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