Recently, I was interviewed online for an upcoming article in a district newsletter. The experience reminded me that many people may not know very much about me and how I started my involvement in Lionism 30 years ago. The following questions and responses should help you to become more familiar with who I am and why I am committed to serving others through Lionism.
When I became the chair of the department of speech and drama at North Dakota State University in 1984, a retired faculty member, Dr. Frederick Walsh, who had been District Governor for 5NE in North Dakota (1961-1962) told me that “if I wanted to amount to anything as a campus leader,” I needed to make connections with the “downtown leaders” of Fargo, North Dakota. I thought this was good advice and I was honored that he asked me to accompany him to the first meeting in September. He sponsored me and I was hooked!
Question: What was your first impression of the Lions after attending your first meeting?
The club was quite large–nearly 100 members. We met at the local Elks Club in the upstairs ballroom. The tables stretched across the room and the head table was elevated in the front. There were flags and banners. It was quite a display. I was introduced to the Lions who sat around me but my only interaction with the group was when I was asked to stand up while being introduced. What I especially enjoyed was the well-run meeting. I can’t remember what the program for that first meeting was about, but after attending for several weeks, I do remember that I especially liked the variety of the programs that were scheduled. We had educators, sports figures, civic leaders, artists, and others who spoke for 15-20 minutes about something happening in the community. My sponsor was correct that I would gain insight into the downtown community if I joined the club.
Question: What convinced you to go higher than the club level with your service?
I was assigned to a committee right away. When we started working on a project, I guess my enthusiasm and creativity was noticeable to others and they gave me more and more opportunity to lead. I was soon involved with several projects and if officers wanted help, they seemed to ask me to get involved. I enjoyed being invited to serve and the more they asked, the more I gave of my time and efforts. One international initiative that caught my attention was Journey For Sight. I will never forget when the nominating committee asked me if I would consider moving up in the chairs through VP and then President. I was really excited to be asked because there were so many members that might have been selected. When the slate of officers was presented and I, as a relatively newer member, was presented as the candidate for 3rd VP, I felt support from the club and that made me want to do my very best. Service in my club fulfilled a need in me to help make my organization the best it could be. In the words of our current International President Joe Preston, I was proud to be able to help strengthen the pride!.
Question: What is the greatest thing about being an ID?
Every opportunity I have had thus far to serve as an International Director has been a “top of the mountain” experience. Perhaps the greatest thing about being an ID is the opportunity to channel every bit of knowledge and experience I have into serving. Being an ID is a channel for my energy, enthusiasm, and commitment.
Question: What is your biggest pet peeve?
Well, it’s not really a pet peeve, but I have to always explain that while I live in Moorhead, MN, I am a member of the Fargo (North Dakota) Lions Club and I am a representative from Multiple District 5 (North Dakota, South Dakota, and Saskatchewan) NOT from Multiple District 5M which includes all of the great Lions from Minnesota, and some of Manitoba and Ontario. It makes for good conversation, but my constituents in MD5 would like me to be introduced from North Dakota, not Minnesota.
Question: What is the most important thing that every Lion should know?
It’s not about you; it’s about service to others. While we have a need to serve, there is a greater need for our service. Keep focused on the most important need and everything else will make sense.
Question: What project did you work on when you realized this is why you became a Lion?
This is an interesting question because I believed I was called to the service of the blind before I became a Lion. I had the opportunity to be a debate partner with a blind student when I was in high school. As far as we knew, there had not been a blind high school debater in North Dakota prior to her interest in the program and I was happy to work with her because we were friends and I wanted to help her and our team to be successful. Of course, she and I couldn’t share materials because she needed to have everything read to her so she could type it in braille. So, I read the evidence I found to her, helped her organize materials for easy access, built a muffler for her braille writer to reduce the sound of her typing during rounds of competition, helped her navigate between rounds at tournaments, and worked with her to improve her skills. I was not the coach, but as a friend, we worked well together and I became a friend of her family. She went on to law school and moved to the east coast to pursue her career. We lost touch over the years, but for the time when we were partners, we enjoyed more successes than disappointments. Many years later, when I was invited to become a Lion, I think my high school experience helped me to realize what a difference one person could make in the life of another. I have always looked back at my high school debate years with pride because my partner and I demonstrated that there are no limits when you set your sights on a dream.
I hope you enjoyed my comments and feel like you know a little more about my start in Lionism and why it means so much to me. Kathy and I hope to see many Lions at the USA/Canada Forum this weekend! Best wishes and strengthen your pride in your club and your service and what it means to those in need.
Best wishes to all!
–Lion Robert Littlefield