I often reflect on all the people in my life who have helped me or taught me something or made my life better in some way. I wonder where they are now. I wonder what they’re doing. I wonder if they will ever know what kind of impact they have made in my life.
Of course they won’t unless I tell them.
When I was in 5th grade I had to give an oral report on the Battle of Gettysburg. In front of everyone.
I was terrified. I had been afraid of public speaking for as long as I could remember. I didn’t think I could do it.
But Ms. Herring thought I could.
On the day of the report she stood by my side with her arm around my shoulder. I cried and sniffled throughout the whole report. My body shook and my voice cracked, tears running down my face as I recounted Pickett’s Charge. When it was over, she hugged me and told me how proud she was. I felt like a million bucks. It is still one of my happiest childhood memories.
But I wasn’t cured—not all the way. The fear of public speaking still gripped me to one degree or another all through elementary, middle, and high school. It was toward the end of my first semester as a college freshman when I talked about tackling the beast head on. I wasn’t sure if I could do it.
But my college friend Leslie thought I could.
Seems she was also similarly afflicted with a fear of public speaking. So we made a pact—kind of a I-will-if-you-will agreement. Together we signed up for Public Speaking as an Arts and Letters elective. We both struggled a lot through that course. But in the end, after much practice and many graded speeches, our confidence grew.
Flash forward 20-plus years. Those of you who know me personally now might be shocked to know that public speaking was ever an issue for me. Many people have commented to me how at ease I seem in front of a group and how easy it seems for me to teach a lesson, deliver a presentation, or facilitate a discussion.
I owe two people a deep heartfelt ‘Thank You’ for this gift.
So, Ms Herring and Leslie, wherever you are, thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you.