Fairly early one Saturday morning I found myself sitting in stunned disbelief staring at the announcement that I had been awarded a Presidential Citation by Toastmasters International. Even now, a few weeks since I received the notification, I still find it hard to express exactly how I feel – honoured, overwhelmed, valued, appreciated and, perhaps above all I have a profound sense of gratitude knowing that the work that I’ve done has helped to make a difference in the lives of those around me.
Perhaps I ought to explain a little more about the award. The Presidential Citation is an annual award that recognizes work done by one or two individuals in each of the 14 Toastmasters regions. Here’s how the award was described In the letter I received notifying me that I was one of this year’s recipients:
“ This award is presented in recognition of your outstanding achievements in representing the goals and ideals of Toastmasters International and is one of Toastmasters’ highest honors.”
I was recognized as a member of Region 11, which comprises Southern Africa, West Africa, East Africa, England, Ireland, Europe and the Middle East.
It’s just a sad reality that I won’t be able to attend the Toastmasters International Convention taking place in Vancouver, Canada in august to receive my citation in person, but I have no doubt that the Southern African Toastmasters leadership will arrange a suitable time to present me with my citation on behalf of International President, Mike Storkey.
I’ll be sure to let you know when that event will take place – it would be wonderful to see you there!
As I’ve said in the past, I’ve had the opportunity of talking to very diverse audiences over the past few months – from 4 year olds right the way up to people living in retirement villages. After a visit to one such group the other day I found myself reflecting on how privileged I am to get to spend some quality time with this remarkable group of people.
It’s not usually during the time I’m sharing my story with the retirees that I realize how special they are. It’s not even during the Q&A sessions – The questions I’m asked don’t seem to vary much from one audience to another… except perhaps when I’m talking to 4 year olds.
Rather, the most special moments tend to come afterwards – when I have a chance to sit and chat to the residents over a cup of tea. That’s when I’m able to listen to stories of their amazing lives – sometimes the stories are hair-raising, sometimes profoundly emotional, and always, always inspiring. And often I gain nuggets of wisdom that I’m able to use in my own life.
The other day an elderly lady told me how much she missed being able to have a dog… she’d always had a dog, from the time she was 6 years old until she entered the retirement home. Watching her with my guide dog, Fiji, brought tears to my eyes.
She explained that she tries to find something to be thankful for in each day … what she described as her daily tonic. Then, as she yielded her seat to another lady who wanted a chance to pat the dog, she smiled and told me that meeting Fiji would serve as her tonic for a lot longer than just a single day.
Since then I’ve also taken to searching for a “daily tonic” in each day… and I’m grateful that they are not usually hard to find!
Is it any wonder I treasure the opportunities I have to spend time with the residents of a retirement home?