K.R. "Ravi" Ravindran
In the 1930s, Ole Kirk Christiansen, a Danish carpenter, had a wooden sign hanging on his wall that read, Det bedste er ikke for godt: "Only the best is good enough." Today, Christiansen is remembered as the inventor of Lego, the colorful plastic bricks beloved by children around the world. But in the early days of the Lego company, its signature product was a wooden duck – one built to the highest standards, out of aged beech, with three coats of clear varnish. Lego's company history tells how Christiansen used his ducks to teach a lesson in quality to his son, Godtfred Kirk:
One evening, when I came into the office, I said to my father: "It's been a good day today, Dad. We've earned a little more." "Oh," said Dad, "what do you mean?" "Well, I've just been to the station with two boxes of our toy ducks for the Danish Co op. Normally they get three coats of varnish, but since it's for the Co-op, I only gave them two. So I saved the business a bit of money." He looked at me in dismay. "Godtfred, fetch those boxes back. Unpack them and give the ducks another coat of varnish. You're not going to bed until the work's done – and you'll do it all on your own." There was no arguing with Dad. And it was a lesson for me about what quality meant.
Today, Lego's quality standards are legendary, and its products are the most popular toys in the world: Lego pieces outnumber humans 86 to 1.
We all recognize that this success stems directly from Lego's business practices – its insistence on quality, efficiency, and innovation. I compare this with our efforts in governance and accountability in Rotary, and realize that sometimes we fall short of the standards expected.
The leaders at the Rotary International, zone, district, and club levels have to maintain the highest standards in governance. The RI president and directors must serve the membership in a meaningful manner; zone leaders must deliver on the investment Rotary makes in them; district leaders must provide dynamic leadership in the district and focus on transparency in accounting and timely reporting of financials; and club leaders must adhere to proper reporting functions and get their clubs onto Rotary Club Central.
Just as Christiansen refused to consider sending a lesser product to any of his clients, so should we refuse to consider giving a lesser effort to any of our work. We must always demand the best of ourselves – in our professional lives, and especially in our Rotary work.
For in Rotary, what is our product? It is not wooden ducks or plastic bricks. It is education, water, health, and peace. It is hope, and it is life itself. For this work, only our best is good enough. I ask you all to remember this – and to do your very best to Be a Gift to the World.
K.R. "Ravi" Ravindran
We in Rotary aspire to great deeds. We admire those who gave great gifts to humanity: Abraham Lincoln, who gave the gift of human dignity to the downtrodden; Mother Teresa, who gave the gift of compassion to the forgotten; Mahatma Gandhi, who gave the gift of peaceful change to the oppressed. Their very lives became gifts to the world.
We can be inspired by their example. We can be inspired to ask, how can I, in the life that I live – without neglecting the responsibilities that are so dear to me – how can I, too, become a gift to the world? As I considered my theme, I thought of the lessons I have learned through my Hindu faith. I thought especially of the story of Sudama.
Sudama was a poor child and a bosom friend of Krishna, who was born in a royal lineage as an avatar – an incarnation of the divine. As the two boys grow up, they drift apart, and while Krishna becomes a military leader and king of great repute, Sudama remains a humble villager.
The years go by and Sudama's poverty deepens. Finally, he lacks even food to feed his children. His wife reminds him of his childhood friendship with Krishna: Perhaps it is time to go to the mighty ruler for help. Reluctantly, Sudama agrees, but resolves that he will not go empty-handed. He gathers together a few handfuls of rice – all the food his family has left – and wraps them in a piece of cloth as a gift for his friend.
When Sudama enters the palace, he is overwhelmed by the grandeur and by Krishna's gracious welcome. His meager gift, so carefully prepared, seems a humiliating reminder of his poverty. Krishna embraces Sudama, who hides the hand holding the rice behind his back. Krishna asks what he is holding.
Far from being disdainful, Krishna accepts the rice with gratitude and consumes it with joy as the two sit and talk together. Hours pass, during which the pleasures of their rekindled friendship push all thoughts of his desperate plight from Sudama's mind. When evening falls, Sudama sets out for home – and only then realizes that he has neglected his task. He is returning with nothing, and Krishna has eaten his family's last grains of rice.
Sudama steels himself to return to his hungry children. But standing before his gate, as dawn begins to break, he sees that the hut he left yesterday has become a stately home, and waiting to greet him is his own family: well-dressed, and well-fed by the baskets of food that appeared in their kitchen as Krishna ate each grain of Sudama's rice.
Krishna understood what Sudama had brought him: everything he had to give. In return, Krishna gave him everything he needed. It is never the material value of a gift that matters – it is the love that comes with it. Just as Sudama's gift to Krishna became a gift to Sudama, what we give through Rotary becomes a gift to us. And we all have a choice: whether to keep our gifts to ourselves or give them to others, and Be a Gift to the World.
We have only one chance at our lives. And we will have only one chance at this new Rotary year. This is our time. Let us grasp it. Let us Be a Gift to the World.
Page 25 of 33