March 26, 2018

Don't let the light go out in your Optimist Club

I write stories about Optimist Clubs. I share optimism nearly every day on this site, at, or on Facebook by telling what Optimist Clubs do and how their actions impact youth and the community in which they live.

Most importantly, I highlight how they make their members feel about belonging to a group of positive-thinking do-gooders. I try to share the feeling of fellowship that is gained by working together for a common cause.

When I saw this post today from Poetry in Motion, I knew right away I was going to share it because it truly sums up why I write about Optimist Clubs. Perhaps my eyes fill with light as I write these stories. I know for certain that the stories I write about have struck me because of the light I have seen shining brightly from the storytellers.

Sadly, my positive light story is going to have a bit of a twist today; it is a downer, so to speak. While I hate to do it, I feel I must because if we don't talk about it, we can't fix it.

Saturday, March 24, 2018, I attended a Super Zone Meeting for the Optimist Clubs in Washington and Oregon, PNW District - Optimist International. It was sparsely attended, which was disappointing, and the agenda was rather thin. But that's okay, I thought, if nothing else, I'm going to gain enthusiasm from my fellow attendees about the projects that we do in our communities.

Sure enough, we heard lists of projects with fundraisers and Respect for Law programs taking the forefront and the Childhood Cancer Campaign and other Optimist International programs taking a less prominent position, among a few other community-specific programs. What we didn't hear from any of the Optimist Club participants was passion. No one lit-up or got excited talking about the projects they do. They simply said, we do this, this and this, and moved on.

Instead of the usual optimism and contagious energy, concerns about participation and communication dominated the discussion. Even the club fundraisers had challenges that the storytellers shared.  And sadly, nothing was suggested to help the participants and Optimist Club members solve their clubs' problems. Unlike the positive environment we expect when we attend an Optimist District or Optimist Club activity, it was not upbeat and quite frankly, it did not include information that would help the clubs succeed.

I've expressed in my blog posts before that not everyone is an inspirational or informed leader. The PNW District has suffered through two years of such poor leadership and we had high hopes that this year would be the one to turn us around. Challenges still remain. In defense of the current governor, he pulled out information from Optimist International that explains the purpose of the District - to be an administrative arm of Optimist International and to help clubs succeed. However, from the agenda I just witnessed, he seems to be taking his cues of what help looks like from the previous administration.

I'm disappointed that the light has been dimmed in so many Optimist Club members' eyes. I hope and pray that this will be turned around soon by bringing back the leaders that share their energy and passion for the organization. They are out there and like me, they are just waiting to be asked.

For an enthusiastic presentation on what it means to be an Optimist Club member, please contact Linda Vaught here.


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