August 23 was the last time I attended the club meeting, giving a "farewell speech" to the members at attendance. Here are the main points I could "re-construct" after three weeks :)
I had accepted a job offer in Florida. I will "follow the food" and leave Plano, leaving Plano West Toasters, the club I started in 2003-2004, my "home" for the past ten years.
While packing personal belongs for the trip, I discovered a few pieces of old documents issued by Toastmasters International, memorabilia I kept for more than ten years. Here they are:
- A certificate of a "Member" for the brand new club, Plano West Toasters. This was issued to the "Charter Members" who witnessed the birth of a new club;
- A certificate of "Club Sponsor" for the new club. A Club Sponsor was an existing Toastmaster who is building a new club.
- Four additional certificates, the "milestones" in the Toastmasters education system: Competent Toastmaster (CTM); Advanced Toastmaster Bronze (ATMB), Advanced Toastmaster Silver (ATMS), and Advanced Toastmaster Gold (ATMG, the "terminal degree").
These papers were color coordinated and nicely presented. But none of the them impressed me as much as a statement printed at the bottom of the "Club Member" Certificate, which is a quote from Dr. Smedley, the founder of Toastmasters International:
"Ours is the only organization I know that is dedicated to the individual. We work together to bring the best in each of us and then we apply our skills to help others."
I did not take the "milestones" too seriously. My "DTM acceptance speech" at the District 50 Conference in 2006 caused quite a stir in the audience. The DTM medallion presentation was very ceremonial each year: Each recipient would walk to the stage to receive the medallion, then give a 1-2 minutes "acceptance speech", a lot like in the Oscars! On each side of the stage, the previous DTMs would lined up to shake hands with the "new class of DTMs", then all eyes would be on the stage to hear what each new DTM would say for the glorious occasion!
I said, "We worked very hard for this day. It took me five years to get here! Now I finally completed my DTM - but then, SO WHAT?"
The crowd laughed! I explained that there are many DTMs in the room, and there are many more in the world. There have been many DTMs before us, and there would be many more to come each year. A milestone is no more than a stick on the side of the road. There are always many more to come! When you are the on the stage, under the spot light, people cheer for you and give you a big accolade. Then you walk off the stage, you are one of DTMs in the crowd of thousands. You disappear, like a grain of sand in a vast beach!
Imagine that you stand on a beach holding a camera. When you zoom in to a gain of sand, you see all the individual glitter and glory. Then when you zoom out, that grain of sand disappears.
All personal "achievements" must be seen in the proper context. As a Toastmaster, no matter how much we think we have achieved, we disappear in the sea of Toastmasters in the thousands of clubs in the world. However, without each grain of sand, there will be no beach. The significance of one Toastmaster is when we work with other Toastmasters to build new clubs, providing the positive and mutually supportive environment so other individuals can also grow, and become better human beings. That's how I understand the meaning of working "together to bring the best in each of us, then use the skills to help others."
In this club each of us is just a "member". We are all the same, as members. To keep the club going, we do our best to attract new members and make the club a home for many others to come. In that context we are also "club builders". Each one of us is part of the efforts to bring out the best in each individual. This drive and deed can only be attributed to one common spirit that we call it LOVE, love for humanity, love for the common good.
We all do many things each day and each week. Some actions are driven by LOVE, some are responses to certain obligations. When driven by love, we do things because we WANT TO. When driven by obligations, the actions are passive, and they COST us emotionally and physically. When driven by love, the things we do make us happier and energized. When driven by obligations, we remove the negative consequences on our back, or remove the nagging factors that drain our life and energy.
Doing the "Toastmasters thing" its about love, not for obligations.
All of us follow the same path in a Toastmasters club: We start as a "new member", then we become experienced member, where we start guiding others, advising and coaching others who are on the same journey with us. If we do not stop there, as we have seen so many DTMs who serve as Area Governors, Division Governors and District officers, they dedicate many years of their lives in the organization, never get paid :) In many occasions they open their wallet in addition to their heart so that others could enjoy the journey! This common path along the common spirit of "betterment" turns many of us from ordinary to extraordinary.
It's about love, not obligation. You have seen it, and will continue to see it in this great organization.
My journey will continue as I move. I may no longer be a paid member in Plano West Toasters, but I will be a paid member in another club in Florida, while continue to help with some of the internet related chores for Plano West Toasters! It's about LOVE, the central element that brings out the best in each of us for better clubs, better communities, and a better society. I hope you, all of us, will walk this path for many years to come.
Goodbye my friends! I will be seeing you in the virtual world :)