Last weekend at the District 31F fall convention, the International Director, Gary Anderson posed a question that I have been thinking about the last few days. He asked “When did you become a Lion”. At first I thought the answer was obvious; it was when I had signed the application form for membership in the Western Harnett Lions Club. If not then, at the induction ceremony when I was officially enrolled into the club and received my Lion’s pin. These were the visible signs but I did not feel ownership or commitment to the goals and aims of the Lions organization.
As I reflect back upon when I felt a real connection to the Lions, it occurred about 3 years after I joined the Club. I had heard about Camp Dogwood, the NC Lions summer camp for the blind but had never helped at the summer camp. So my wife, Donna and I decided to volunteer for a week at the camp to see firsthand what the blind and visually impaired campers experienced during their week away from home. It was the most fantastic week that I had spent and the most rewarding experience that I had encountered. The blind and visually impaired campers were so appreciative of the opportunity to spend time at a facility and how the counselors and volunteers treated them as regular individuals. I was able to work with many campers on a one to one basis and really got to know them. I have made several good friends that I visit every year when I go back to Camp Dogwood as a volunteer. I now realize that this is when I truly became a Lion. For me it took that long to truly embrace the motto of the Lions-“We Serve”. I now know and appreciate what a great organization the Lions is and I am proud to say “I am a Lion”. For each of you the time when you became a Lion will be different; it may be serving at the local Breadbasket, helping build a Habitat House, doing eye screening at the Vision Van, helping the blind at a local event, or some other Lion project.
My message to the newer members of the Lions is that as you help with the various Lion service projects, you too will one day find that time when you can proudly say “I AM NOW A LION”
To all District 31F Lions, I would like to wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.