If you were an avid reader as a youngster who was intrigued by the science fiction genre you might have read the classic short story with the same title as this article penned by Damon Knight. If you didn’t read it way back then, and preferred television as the medium that gave you your message, you might have seen the epic eponymous ‘Twilight Zone” episode of the award-winning series produced by the creepily brilliant Rod Serling. The story… and its televised adaptation… made it crystal clear that one word has more than a single (and in some cases very different) meanings. In this case, the play on words was on the verb to serve, which has the dual meaning of ‘to assist’ AND ‘ to provide as a meal.”
Rather than spoil your enjoyment of the double entendre and its surprise denouement, you are encouraged to read Knight’s little gem and/or watch Serling’s adaptation. You can accomplish the latter by clicking onto: https://youtu.be/D6dXsjKcA9I
Now that we’ve dispensed with these pleasantries, we’re going to take you to a time and place where the verb has both meanings simultaneously while introducing you to a few amazing people who are making it all possible. The time is the present and the folks you’re about to meet are some of the volunteers who are making a difference in the lives of the at-risk kids who are being served by the Boys and Girls Club of Rosarito. In this first of a multi part series you’ll meet some members of our expatriate community who are involved in a big way and read about their varied contributions.
Dana Messinger is a modern day-renaissance man who was born in nearby Coronado, California. A life of service seemed a foregone conclusion. Both his father and step-father had military careers and Dana wanted to follow in their footsteps. Unfortunately, football related injuries made that impossible so, after a successful college stay earning a degree in Sociology and following that up as proprietor of Chez Loma (one of the area’s best restaurants), the Peace Corps…with its search for candidates with Small Business Development and Education skill sets… became the vehicle to satisfy his dream. He served back-to-back two-year tours of duty in Honduras (in San Pedro Sula, which he mentioned has recently been named ‘”the most dangerous city in the world”) and in Uruguay, teaching English to the local youngsters. He told us that “…the people were incredulous that we would leave the United States for no money to come down there to help.” Most of his students wanted to master their English language skills so that they could leave their home country for the greener (economically more promising) pastures of the U.S.A. It was clear that the American concepts of volunteerism and serving as a role model for those less fortunate were not ideas that easily adapted into the local culture. Dana also told us that “Uruguay, which looked even more to Europe for their cultural foundations, was a country that was even less amenable to helping others less fortunate get ahead in their society.”
After his first two stints in the Peace Corps, he headed down to Rosarito where he owned a home and, as luck would have it, his timing was perfect. The Rosarito Beach Hotel’s ownership had just made the decision to let the city’s fledgling Boy and Girl Club occupy their neighboring Rosarito Shores storage facility in exchange for supplying the labor and materials to renovate it into a usable Club for the area’s at-risk children. Dana became one of the volunteers who were the backbone of this physically demanding six-month-plus effort. When that was accomplished he re-upped for another tour of duty with The Peace Corps, this time heading out to Colombia in August of 2012 for two more years of teaching English. The experience was quite different this time around. “Colombia looked more to the states for its template of helping those less fortunate of its citizens. I had a co-teacher who did not speak much English but who was a wizard in our language’s grammar which he posted on the blackboards and the students industriously copied into their notebooks. I was the pronunciation specialist, helping the Spanish speaking student body with their ability to be phonetically understood.” The team was highly successful.
When Dana returned to Rosarito in 2014, he realized that his years living in the area both north and south of the U.S-Mexico border had uniquely prepared him for his next Boys and Girls Club stint. As he told us, “…the contiguous borders have made my Mexican students more familiar with the concept of volunteerism. I’m looking forward to spreading the seeds of a lifetime of serving others into their fertile minds.”
Len Merson told us that his favorite quotation…and the mantra that has guided his life… are these words from the venerable and venerated Dr. Albert Schweitzer: ” I don’t know what your destiny will be but one thing I do know is that the only ones amongst you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve others.” Len’s gregarious nature leads those who know him to vociferously agree that he ‘walks the walk!’
He is the living definition of peripatetic. He was born in Montreal, raised in Philadelphia, and has spent large swaths of his adult life in some of the planet’s finest environments: Hawaii, Southern California, and most recently Baja. His succinct comment to this interviewer was ” I’ve saved the best for last!”
His life’s work has taken two interrelated vectors. He first founded an enterprise that taught all adults who would listen how to live a chaos free life. Being organized (easier said then done) is the centerpiece of his philosophy. Over the past forty-plus years, he has spread his ‘gospel’ to over 80,000 acolytes involved in the corporate, military, and governmental spheres in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Israel, Japan, and The United States. As he told us, the twin goals were to “help my students master their careers and recapture their lives.”
Along the way, he started another venture which has now become the centerpiece of his life. ” I became acutely concerned with assisting abused, neglected, and abandoned children.” His “Magnificent Me Self-Esteem Workshops” were presented at public, private , and parochial schools, as well as at juvenile prisons and teenage abuse shelters all across the U.S. “To date, over 29,000 young people have participated in these pro bono sessions.”
With Len now on sabbatical south-of-the-border, The Boys and Girls Club of Rosarito was very fortunate to become a major focus of his desire to serve at-risk kids. He volunteers a minimum of two days a week where he teaches his young charges Self-Esteem, Meditation, and in an interesting corollary, Boxing! He is also focused on finding Sponsors for the Club who will help with the funding of the new under-construction facility located in the Colonia Lucio Blanco area of town where, ultimately, 600 children per day can receive the vital services (five hours of supervised activities and a hot meal) each and every week day. In the meantime, the Rosarito Shores Club, just a short walk south of the Rosarito Beach Hotel, is open and serving up to 100 youngsters/day.
Back at the beginning of this article we mentioned that the verb to serve had two meanings: “to assist” and “to provide, as a meal”…and we promised to take you to a time and place where the verb had both meanings simultaneously.
The time is now and the place is The Boys and Girls Club of Rosarito. If you’re interested in joining the volunteers who serve, please contact the Club’s President Rosy Torres via e-mail at : firstname.lastname@example.org or via phone at (661) 850-1773 for all the details.
You..and Rosarito’s children…will be glad you did!