It occurred to me when I mentioned in my last post about leaving Toastmasters, ™that I hadn’t told you about my swan song night.
Sometime last spring, I made a decision not to renew my membership in Toastmasters this fall, but not make a big deal of it. I had helped start the Gahanna club in 2001, was its first president, served as a few other officers, won contests, and helped plan special events. I had even opened my house to a TM meeting on 2 occasions when our regular meeting place was suddenly not available. Yes, I had certainly been involved. TM did for me what it does for so many, helped me overcome the fear of public speaking, increased my self-esteem, and improved the effectiveness of my words, both spoken and written. I made several friends, perhaps most significantly, Eric, who offered to be my webmaster for this blog for free. Everyone was supportive and respectful. I loved every minute, until last spring. Memorizing speeches was becoming more difficult. Remembering names and the points I wanted to make when it was my turn to evaluate speeches extemporaneously, and Approaching the lectern gracefully, which never had been easy for a person who is totally blind, was becoming increasingly awkward. Even though I was close to attaining the highest level of distinction in TM, that of Distinguished Toastmaster, DTM, I felt it was the right time to move on, but it was a struggle to come to that decision when I had come so close. . But silently slinking away was just not going to happen if Eric’s wife Ashlee had anything to do with it. Secretly, Ashlee planned a presentation at our annual banquet in August of our first ever Lifetime Achievement Award, and I was to be the recipient. Only I had an opportunity to visit my daughter and granddaughters that weekend, and thus, the surprise was spoiled, and so was the program for the evening. I never did find out what they did instead of presenting me with that award. The solution was to make the presentation at a later meeting. By this time, I knew about the plans and suspected there would be more than a 5-minute speech and a handoff of the plaque and a photo op, (Toastmasters love their presentations.) so I invited my son and his 2 daughters to attend. I wanted at least some of my family to be there for my big moment. Was I ever surprised to see that the entire meeting was devoted to me. Alan, ever the entertaining and creative master of ceremonies, told some stories, made some jokes, and called on 3 different people to talk about the guest of honor, me. When Eric got up to speak, I expected a roast, because he has such a wonderful sense of humor, but his speech was heartfelt and touching, and brought tears to the eyes of my family. To my amazement, at the end of his speech, everyone stood up and applauded. Applauding is common at TM meetings, but rarely a standing O. At the end, Ashlee presented me with a plaque that had braille words that said, Gahanna Toastmasters Lifetime Achievement Award Mary Hiland For Excellence in Leadership and Continued Inspiration 2015.” Since all this, except the wording on the plack, was not a surprise, I had a chance to pull together some words of thanks. I did not prepare a speech, but always the TM, I did stand up and give an extemporaneous acceptance speech of such a prestigious award. If you come to my house, you will see this award proudly displayed on my piano. All the other trophies and placks I have accumulated over the years are tucked away in my office, but this one holds a place of honor in my house and in my heart.