“Grandmas never run out of hugs or cookies.”
— Author Unknown
For those of you who are in District 7 Toastmasters, I’m sure you’ve already met our newest International Speech Champion – Ryan. Last Saturday, against some very tough competition, balancing on two crutches and a knee brace, he won the district speech championship and an opportunity to compete against the heavy weights at the 2012 Toastmasters International convention in Orlando this August.
Ryan found his way to Oregon by route of Texas, which certainly explains the touch of southern drawl in his speech. Along the way, he got a college degree at Colorado State University, won an Emmy, and met his wife Chelsea. (Yes, that Emmy.)
As I gave him a ride to our meeting of Feedbackers Toastmasters tonight, for yet another practice, we talked about his work as the marketing manager for the Special Olympics of Oregon. “It’s a great job, and one that I love,” he told me (paraphrasing). “I go to all the events, either as an employee or on my own time to help support the organization.”
Going to every event means that he has the terrible burden of hobnobbing with local celebs, eating fancy foods, and doing a polar plunge for his work. All kidding aside, would you jump into freezing cold water once an hour for 24 hours, even for a good cause?
Ryan and Chelsea don’t limit their charitable endeavors to just their employers. They both donate 10% of their salaries to various causes – local, national and international. They are also long-time volunteers for Hoby (Hugh O’Brien Youth Leadership) camps. Ryan has been a junior counselor for five years and is looking forward to volunteering as a full counselor this year.
The speech that Ryan won district with was called ‘Push Past It’. It was a series of stories from his life where his own dreams were drowned, only to be buoyed up by the wisdom of his Grandmother. “Push past it!” she has urged him throughout rejection, ejection and dejection.
Today, his grandmother suffers from dementia and doesn’t always remember who Ryan is. It hurts him because, as he says in his speech, “she gives the best hugs and would pass me a cookie before dinner.” More than that, she’s been a role model in his life and to see her slip away slowly is agonizing.
As Toastmasters, we talk about the mechanics of speaking a lot. We talk about the vocal variety, the organization, body language, and delivery. Sometimes we forget that in a lot of these speeches, there is a real person on the other end of the story.
Ryan’s grandmother is no different. Behind the speech, there is a real person.
Ryan admitted to me tonight that at the start of this process, he only wanted to win the competition. Now, as he looks beyond, his speech has grown into something more – a message to “Push past it,” when life gets hard and knocks us around. Learning that speaking a message, not just a speech is a good lesson for all of us, not just Ryan.
He still talks to his grandmother often, and although it’s frustrating for her to the point of bitterness to be losing her mind, she still loves him. And he her.
Ryan is doing good things in our community, works hard, has learned much quickly, and isn’t shy about professing his love for his wife or his grandmother. He is setting a good example for everyone …
… and he’s only 25.
Today’s gift of time … Gave Ryan a ride from downtown to our meeting in Beaverton so he could get some more evaluation help on his contest-winning speech.
Also, if you’re wondering, my post is titled ‘500’ because this is my 500th post and the 500th day of my giving time project. I wanted to celebrate by celebrating one of the many people doing good work in our community. Every single day.