Toastmasters Speech: Choosing Hope

Posted: September 24, 2015 in Uncategorized
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The following is my second speech using the guidelines from the Competent Communicator book. The assignment was to choose any topic and organize it with an introduction, body, and conclusion, use appropriate transition words, and write out a personal outline. If I had to do this one over again, I would chose a different topic. I love giving inspirational speeches, but this one could have been a 20 minute speech. I only had 5-7 minutes. By the time I whittled the speech down to 5-7 min, I felt like it had lost part of the meaning. Since I was rushing through the information to stay in the 5-7 minutes, I communicated more from memorization which I don’t like doing. The other “problem” I had during this speech was with my arms and hands. When I started giving the speech, I became very aware of my arms! I couldn’t figure out what to do with them–hold the lectern, gesture, pick my nose, etc. Nothing felt natural. I’m hoping I become more at ease with my arms as I give more speeches. Overall, it was lots of fun, a little stress, and great feedback. If you are interested in leadership and communication development, check out a Toastmasters Club near you! If you live in Murfreesboro, then check out the Heart of Tennessee (HOT) Toastmasters http://heartoftennessee.toastmastersclubs.org/.

***

Five years ago my daughter and I had the opportunity to go on a mission trip to Honduras. The main focus of the trip was to build houses for some of the poorest families in the city of Tegucigalpa.  We raised money for building supplies, bought our tool belts and we left over Thanksgiving week with a team of ten people. I really thought God was sending me to the people of Honduras to bring them a small amount of development and a lot of love. But I’ve have time to reflect over the five years since the trip, and I’m not sure God was sending me to help them. I believe God did send me, but it was for them to help me. I wasn’t prepared to see an impoverished country. I definitely wasn’t prepared to see people who were hungry. Today I want to share with you how the people I met and the gift I received taught me how to choose hope in all tough circumstances.

First, We arrived in Teguc and in minutes of setting foot off the plane began seeing the effects of poverty. I knew we were coming to work in a poor country. but I just didn’t have an understanding of what that really meant. My first real encounter with the hungry happened at Church’s chicken where we ate our fill just after we arrived. When we came out of the restaurant, I noticed people waiting for leftover scraps of food. It didn’t take me long to realize that I may have been hungry because I had missed lunch, but I had never experienced hunger like what was staring back at me. Sadly, hunger was everywhere. I thought I had seen the worst of the hunger until day 5 when we visited the Teguc dump. We weren’t there to throw trash away, instead we were going to feed a meal to the people that live there. I didn’t even know anything like that existed. People were everywhere sorting through piles of garbage in order to eat. I felt numb as I sat in the back of a truck giving out food with men and women’s hands reaching out while buzzards sat beside us.  How could we out-give what we were wittnessing? The excitement of the trip turned into a knot of reality in my stomach. Hungry people were real.

But, I don’t want to leave you with only those thoughts. Not only was there poverty, but there was extravagant generosity. Our team received a gift while we were building a house in hillside slum. We had torn down a little shack made of rotten wood and bits of scrap metal and were replacing it with a one-room wooden house. Community folks gathered and the day had a joy to it that stood out beyond the conditions of the city. This day, our team made trips up and down a large hill carrying trash and supplies to and from the site. This older woman watched us all day. On one of the trips down the hill she invited me, my daughter, and a couple other teammates into her home and chatted incessantly in Spanish. I wish I could have understood what she said. 🙂  She had a small table set up with glasses, a 2-liter of coke, and snack cakes. And in a country where people were malnourished and starving, we were given the gift of food. Our leader had already been invited to her home and had told us that she had spent everything she had on snacks for the missionaries to say thank you. Nothing else seemed to matter but that moment. I’ve always heard the saying “it’s better to give than to receive” but that day I learned that it’s good to give and it’s good to receive. And even though I was a middle-class woman from the US standing in a home in the 2nd poorest country in Central America, I wanted to do what she was doing … choosing hope!!

Finally, how do the hungry find hope? There is a proverb from the Christian Bible that says, “a generous person will be enriched, and the one who gives a drink of water will receive water.”  My daughter and I gave water but we definitely left with our cups full. How could the poorest woman I’ve ever met take everything she had and give it to strangers working nearby? All I saw was a country full of deplorable conditions that outnumbered the relief efforts. She taught me a lesson that changed the way I think. This sweet lady’s identity was not in poverty or the slum. It was in something much finer and grander. Her identity was wrapped in riches of love, generosity, and goodness. Those things can never be taken away even in the worst of circumstances.

To conclude: I never want to be prepared to see hungry people or a community of people that live in the dump. In addition, I never again want to underestimate the power of receiving a gift wrapped in love. Maybe it’s when we learn to receive extraordinary gifts that we can give more than we could ever imagine. There’s a quote by Mother Teresa that says, “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” Yes, I learned about hunger and about giving and receiving, but the most important lesson I want to leave with each of you is how the woman on the hillside choose hope.

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