The Words We Offer, The Gifts We Give

Ok, so after a week of working on the computer, and preparing for a speech contest, I’m able to get back on and put up a post.  This post is about a speech that I’m giving in the Toastmaster’s International Speech Contest. It’s a direct result of the work that I am choosing to do with helping people to understand how things affect their lives, as well as how their lives affect the environment (including other people). Words are probably (in my estimate) the greatest influence in our lives, after we begin to learn how to use them. Hence, this speech that I want to present to people.  It will only take about 8 minutes to read, so if you have the time, please, sit back and let me know what you think of it.


 

Did you know that life can be divided into three phases? The first is when we come to believe in Santa Claus. The second is when we come to no longer believe in Santa Claus. The third is when we… become Santa Claus.

I’d like to touch on these ideas, starting with my father.

My father, in his younger days, was a big man, strong and courageous. This seemed to be amplified by the fact that he had steel taps on his shoes, because his job demanded it.  Wherever he walked, he always strode with purpose. It was CLICK, CLICK, CLICK. Wherever he went, people knew he was around. Back at the house, we kids used that as an early warning system, because we could always hear him coming, before we saw him.

That was my dad.

Through the years, he would give us gifts: Christmas, birthdays, other occasions… he gave us wonderful gifts. But, as courageous as he was, there was one gift that he never gave us. It was the gift of a particular talk. It’s a talk that we all need to give as well as receive.

I didn’t appreciate growing up with my family, so I left when I was 18. I did not see my father again for over… twenty… years.

I came home one night, expecting my wife’s wonderful cooking. As I came in the door, it was, “WHOA, DAD! What are you doin’ here? Where’s mom?” Well, mom didn’t make that trip. I thought, Geez, dad didn’t like traveling alone, and what’s more, he despised air travel. It didn’t dawn on me until much later as to why he made that trip.

He had come to give a talk.

He spent three days with my family, but unfortunately, that talk never came. What I saw during that time was an old man. An old man with white hair, bent and stooped, who, when he walked,  no longer strode with purpose. He… he shuffled and shook with… Parkinson’s.

Where is my father?  That’s not my father! I want my father back, strong and courageous!

I had one more lesson courage to learn, one more gift to be given.

At the end of those three days he said goodbye to my family, and he and I drove to the airport, a two hour trip, alone, together. No talk. Parking garage to the terminal, long walk, no talk. We got to the terminal where we would wait for the boarding announcement. We sat there in painful silence, two grown men, struggling for something to say, with time dwindling down. And then it came.  Not… the talk, but the announcement telling us it was time to say goodbye.

We had run out of time.

We got up from where we were sitting and walked across the way to where we would say our goodbyes. Thinking back on it now, he had overcome his distaste of traveling alone. He had overcome his greater fear of flying. In just a moment, at that time, he would overcome his greatest fear… that reason for his trip.

He didn’t need time. Two seconds. Four words.  As he was saying goodbye to me, he looked me straight in the eye and his last words to me were, “Tim, I love you.”

Santa came through one last time, and it was the best gift I ever got from him!

Those words!

What are the words we offer? What are the gifts we give?

As I mentioned, I left home when I was 18, full of the infinite wisdom of a teenager.

Phase two: No longer believing.

I figured I could give myself better gifts than old man ever could, so I set out to get those gifts. Indeed, wonderful gifts I got. The best was my wife and three kids, all still as beautiful as the first day I laid eyes on them.

But I lost them.

I lost them because of words. Words that manifested themselves into action. I didn’t use drugs or alcohol. I used arrogance and ignorance, a potent combination. I lost my wife. I lost my family. I lost my home. And down into this big… deep… dark… hole I went…  It’s called “depression.”

I don’t know how far down I went. I didn’t hit bottom, because somewhere down there was this little glimmer of hope, and it came up to me in the form of a Craigslist advertisement. It said, “Hey, would you like to learn to speak? Come to us, we’re Toastmasters!” Now, I don’t need to remind you all that we shouldn’t trust people we meet from out on the Internet…  I’m just sayin’…

As it is, I took them up on their offer. I didn’t so much take gifts anymore, but I began to receiving them again. I got the gift of learning more about people. I got the gift of learning how to measure my words. But, the most important gift I got was the ability to face the fear of… self and who I thought I had become. I took the pleasurable as well as the not-so-pleasurable, and I held them close. I hold them close to this very day. I also learned that I’d be a fool if I did not share what I have come to understand.

Phase three: Becoming Santa Claus.

What are the words we offer? What are the gifts we give?

Will they be in the quiet of a living room to a confused teenager, or in a darkened bedroom to a troubled spouse? Will they be in a boardroom in front of 20 people, or on a stage in front of hundreds? The size of our audience will not matter. What will matter is that we stand and speak. Our perceived successes and failures will not matter, either. What will matter is that we stand, we find that courage and say what must be said! Regardless of who we face, when we face them, and how, I only have one question for you now… What will be the words you offer? What will be the gifts that you give?

Please, whatever they be, do not delay in giving them.

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