When you receive a gift, whether a present, a winning blue ribbon, or even a smile - you feel better. You feel enriched. Your whole face lights up! You are smiling! And did you know? The giver of the gift also receives a lift? There is a perceptible, quantifiable lift. And did you also know, everyone watching the gift-giving also receives a lift? A buoyancy, a benefit. Like a pebble dropped into a quiet lake, the centrifugal force of the gift-giving is felt throughout the room. Everyone benefits! Which means that after witnessing this gift-givingexchange, we all feel better than when we started!
That is the magic, that is the genius of Toastmasters!
Here in Toastmasters, we understand there is something magical about peer to peer gift-giving that raises our self-esteem, our self-confidence, our self-worth. The sense of, “I can do it!” The thing that so often scares people the most: Public speaking. Because here, you are seen. You are heard. You are appreciated. You are held in positive regard. You are appraised with praise.
Praise begins with a warm welcome to our club. You come up to the front of the room. You shake hands with the club president. Lucky you! All the people are cheering! You get a big fat blue folder full of Toastmasters stuff. Maybe a welcoming pin. Like a celebrity, you get to wave to a cheering audience.
Then comes winning your first blue ribbon, your first First-Place blue ribbon! Remember yours?
I remember my first blue ribbon on the refrigerator was more important to me than the diplomas on my wall because here was tangible, colorful proof I was seen, heard, and appraised with praise. I was part of something bigger than myself. Something we, as humans, intrinsically long for – to belong, to be valuable, to be useful. To find connection.
You may recall in the movie, “The Wizard of Oz,” how the Cowardly Lion was a-quakin’ in his claws with fear? How it was the Wizard who saw the Lion not as cowardly, but as courageous! When the Wizard pins on the Lion a beautiful medal – (just like here in Toastmasters!) then, the Lion had courage. All he was missing was the medal. All he was missing was the praise.
A close friend of mine in Toastmasters, when she started, could not win a blue ribbon for all the whiskey in Ireland. I remembered the Cowardly Lion and knew all she needed was that bit of praise to set her on her feet. So, I sent her an Encouragement Card, along with one of my blue ribbons. Inside the card I wrote, “You are my First-Place Speaker!” From that day to this, she wins blue ribbons. All she needed was the praise; a crack, an opening into self-awareness and self-esteem.
To underscore this theme comes the inspiring book entitled, “Tribe.” “Tribe,” authored by Sebastian Junger, describes the history of the Red Man vs. the White Man.
When the Red Man captured the White Man, the White Man seldom tried to escape. He did not want to leave. And why?
He enjoyed the tribal way. He enjoyed the communal living of feeling seen, heard, and held in positive regard.
On the other hand, when the White Man captured the Red Man, the Red Man either tried to escape or he died. Either way, he exited. The Red Man could not embrace the White Man’s ways with his square houses, walls, and stairs; disconnecting him from Sacred Mother Earth – disconnecting him from his fellow man.
The author goes on to conjecture today’s social problems stem from our being more White than Red - as we continue to live in square houses, drive square automobiles, and have square boxes in front of our faces with smart phones, I-pads and computers. Living more Facebook and less interface. Living less in communion. To counter this, we bring balance to our lives when we come together as we have tonight – for the underlying reasons of communion and companionship.
The Lakota Indians believe Loneliness is the one emotion mankind feels the same. So, when I tell you, “I’m lonely,” you know what I’m talking about. You know how I feel. No need to quantify or qualify. Likewise, when you tell me you are lonely, I know what you’re talking about. No need to describe it. The Lakota go on to say the cure for loneliness is found through the human touch. And through the human touch, the Presence of God may be found. The Great Spirit is found.
While we may not always touch one another on the physical, we can touch one another through our eyes, our ears, our words, through our positive regard. Even now, right now, Great Spirit can be found among us.
We are, by nature, flawed. There is no talent in finding the imperfections of others. We receive what we validate. Validate therefore what is right in the world, what is right in you, what is right in others. Validate the importance, the talent, the goodness, in each other and in yourself. As you saw in the beginning, our best comes forward, our goodness shines, every time we praise with praise.