The seemingly ubiquitous Toastmasters. The perennial question.

This is the question everyone asks, when they are NOT Toastmasters. It comes swirling from spouses, children, friends, colleagues, in-laws, out-laws, anyone u know.

Why on Earth are you spending so much time (and money) on Toastmasters? Have you forgotten your responsibilities to family and work? Instead ‘running around’ for Toastmasters?

Why not?
This is my quick reply. Why not, if I can be a better person for myself, my family, my work, with new friends to boot?

Why not?
If I can hone and sharpen my speaking, listening and thinking skills, so that I can have better, fulfilling relationships, be an understanding mother/father, loving wife/husband, better everything?

Why not?
For with a network of Toastmasters, I could be pulled-in for better career opportunities, a coveted job-position in a dream organization, or the CEO Toastmaster would give me a glowing reference for my next job. Hey, you never know when your star will shine! I could answer many more why nots, but that would take this narrative away from the crux of the story.

What was my why?
When I first set foot in a Toastmasters demo meeting in 1990, it was an old door that I thought had closed for good, that re-opened. The large, ceiling-to-floor, wooden door of the Holiday Inn, that I had to push hard to open, was like Narnia’s door. As it shoved open, I saw before me, unfold the fresh scent of pine, the rugged feel of the thick carpet, the warmth of the bright downlights, furniture arranged in a conference setting. I took a deep breath as I stepped in. I knew I had come home.

Why home one would ask?
There lies a story to be told.
My history with public speaking, debating and stage performances go back to elementary school days. These pursuits were a form of expression, creative expression in an otherwise mundane existence. What existence does a child have, except school and home? What expression doesa child have when in that era, children were seen but not heard? My euphoria was only on stage. My chance to express all that I thought. My voice to be heard. When school and University days were over, so were my stage days. It all came to an abrupt end. My thoughts unexpressed. My voice no longer heard. I could only hear whispers churning in my mind. I drowned myself in work, hoping that it would fill the void. It did not. I resigned myself to this, telling myself, hey buddy, this is adult life. Get a grip on reality. Live with it. Your glory days are over.

Yes, I did. but with hope. I knew there had to be some place, some way, that I could continue my calling. 7 years later, in the furthest corner of page 7 of our local newspaper, was an article strip about a Public Speaking Club. I still recall as if it were yesterday, how I jumped to the edge of my seat, my heart beating fast, hoping against hope that this was finally my James Bond moment. Yesssss!! Yes, it was. But..but..what’s this? Toastmasters? What? Was it a Club for chefs? Was it a baking Club? Never mind, I chided myself. Just call the given number. Cut all that doubt and just CALL, a loud voice urged me. I did. The rest is history.

My question to you now is Why? Why Toastmasters?
The answer to this must be resounding. No holds barred. Raw, authentic, truthful, genuinely YOU. Then you’ll know the why. The why that will propel you to take that first step to walk through that door, to a land of opportunities, growth, progress, friendship, kinship, in a fraternity of like-minded people, all moving in the same direction, but at their own speed. It’s called the Toastmasters journey. There is no destination. No end. It runs within its own infinite loop.

Ask that question, WHY. With that answer, you are empowered to ward off that perennial question WHY, a question that only a true Toastmaster can answer.

Written by Mary Thomas, CTM, VC3