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With Dignity and Respect for All...

August 12, 2010

I had the opportunity to spend a little time at three member society conventions over the past week: KSKJ Life in Pueblo, CO; Luso-American Life in Burlingame, CA; and CSA Fraternal Life in Lisle, IL.  As always, it was wonderful to renew acquaintances with society executives and to witness the debates among delegates about ways to improve their organizations’ financial and fraternal activities. 

The leadership of all three of these societies not only recognizes the need for the rapid evolution of their business model, but they also are actively working to implement meaningful changes – by adopting a common theme for their fraternal activities; by partnering with other societies to enhance their financial services product mix; or by streamlining their governance structure.  I came away from each of these meetings very encouraged.

There was one experience from this latest road trip that went beyond mere encouragement – it was inspiring.  One of the main features of the Luso-American Life convention is the youth festival, an afternoon of performances highlighting Portuguese culture by the society’s numerous youth councils.  Over 400 children ranging in age from 3-18 participated.  If you’ve ever seen Portuguese folk dancing, you know it combines twirls and spinning and jumping – it’s as much an athletic event as entertainment.  Some of the performances were Broadway caliber; others less so. 

The one that really stayed with me was the final group that featured a boy – he couldn’t have been more than 8 or 9 years old – and a girl not much older than that.  The boy was disabled; he relied on a walker to get around the stage.  But that did not stop him from doing the same twirls, spins, and jumps – all with an enormous smile on his face – as the other 50 or so children in his group.  What courage.

He and his dance partner – I don’t know whether it was his sister or not – whirled around the stage during their 12-minute routine like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.  The girl held onto the walker during some of the more difficult moves.  What compassion.

If there was ever a display of what fraternalism is all about, this was it.  Hats off to the parents who raised these children to not let anything hold them back, to the Luso youth council leaders who fostered an atmosphere of dignity and respect for all, and to the courage and compassion of that boy and girl who inspired an auditorium full of people to believe that anything is possible.