The meeting ended with me jokingly saying to the club president, “that signals the end of my social life.” He looked at me with a definite question on his face. I said to him that this was the last of our luncheon meetings on our current meeting schedule.
Our Optimist Club had struggled for months on the question of whether to change the meeting time or the frequency of the club meetings. A decision was finally made to reduce the number of regularly scheduled meetings and this was the last on the old schedule.
It was then I thought about how much more I had looked forward to our luncheon meetings since I had retired. I am not tremendously socially connected and look forward to the break in the week that our luncheon meeting have been providing me.
My thinking spread even further from that point to where I was thinking about the total value of fellowship in our Optimist lives. In a day of go here, go there, go this fast, I believe we sacrifice what our parents used to enjoy in the way they just enjoyed each other, their neighbors, and their friends. This is so true in the way I have enjoyed my life in Optimism.
As we talk amongst ourselves about our clubs and their current membership, I don’t think we address the need for fellowship as an important factor in retention as well as recruitment of new members. Many of my fondest memories have been those in the company of friends who were like me, Optimists. Looking back, I remember parties, barbecues, potlucks, and celebrations spent with Optimists as being many of my favorites.
We don’t stress to people we talk to about our clubs how this club is made up of some of the neatest people in the world. When we think of our social lives, many of us share concern about the ability to go out in our communities knowing we are going to a place that will be safe and will cater to people who share many of the values we hold that make that place a fun place to go.
Many of our more successful clubs still cater to the idea of group activities that have nothing to do with a project. It's just a matter of, "hey, let's get together." It might be, "isn't this the weekend we scheduled the potluck at the Petersen's?" Where else can you go knowing you will be safe, enjoy inexpensive fun with friends, and laugh with people you know share the same values you do?
Many young people abandon a social life fearing they will go to an establishment to be confronted by a self-centered, over-bearing, attention seeker. That is virtually impossible if you were attending a barbecue at a fellow Optimist’s house. There is no such thing as a self-centered Optimist. They are too busy spending time promoting the things that address the needs of others, particularly youth in their community.
In our business world, systems such as HR, human resources, work toward ensuring you don’t cultivate a social life. There are rules against this and rules against that and policies that prohibit involvement between this person and that person. Integrity and ethics dictate to you, you mustn’t spend too much time socializing with subordinates for fear of endangering your position within the company.
With systems working against enjoying a social life, why not use Optimists to find another way to allow for personal enjoyment? This is beyond networking and sharing what is going on in your community. This is simply finding a way to enjoy one another and do it in such a manner as others recognize it is a good idea and would be willing to join your club just to have that valued fellowship. Man is a social beast. The social part of Optimism needs to be stressed and fellowship brought back as a way to promote what made our organization great.