On Public Speaking and Hope

Last week my daughter participated in a poetry and prose festival at her school, in which she and other students memorized spoken pieces of literature to recite on stage. A day before the event, the entire student body, grades K through 6th, were invited to the final dress rehearsal. The first two Kindergarteners panicked at the sight of the huge stage, lights and microphone hanging above their heads, and refused to go on.

The third Kindergartener in line was a small boy named Tony, with sandy hair that fell into his giant, round eyes. “I’ll go, I’ve practiced!” he said excitedly, hopping from side to side. Without waiting for further instructions, he ran on stage and pulled the hanging microphone right to his mouth to say the name of his poem, “Oh My, Oh My, Oh Dinosaurs.” The volume of his voice, paired with the microphone he’d practically pulled inside his mouth, produced a loud squeal and boom—and the entire assembly of students erupted with laughter.

I watched little Tony’s bright, hopeful face turn red. His eyes filled with tears and his lips quivered as he slowly walked off stage. He now refused to recite his piece, and sat crying in the audience while the other students continued. Maybe he would regain the courage to recite at the festival the next day, but for this day, it seemed it was too late.

Though I didn’t know him or his parents, my heart sank for this little boy. I just wanted to reach into his head and take away the memory of those laughing, taunting faces. These are the kind of things kids don’t forget! So many adults are still afraid to speak publicly—often, just from lack of experience. But I wonder how many others had a moment like Tony’s in their heads, a moment that keeps them from saying how they feel or from communicating with colleagues as they get older.

Miraculously, the night of the festival, Tony showed up. When it was his turn to perform, out he came with his 4th grade sister. She stood beside him for support and he’d glance to her for guidance—like Geoffrey Rush’s character in The King’s Speech encouraged the stuttering Colin Firth. Sister by his side, he recited every line of his poem, complete with hilarious voice inflection and body language.

The audience laughed again—but this time, in appreciation of his onstage presence. And when he finished, applause echoed through the auditorium louder and stronger than any microphone squeal or teasing laughter ever did. I silently prayed it would be this he would remember.

As a parent, this moment gave me hope in several ways. Number one: Our children will, of course, experience pain and humiliation as they grow up, but that pain does NOT have to be the end of the story. It does NOT have to follow them through their lives and keep them from ever really being themselves IF they are encouraged and have the support to try again.

Number two: As I have a son and a daughter spaced in age about the same as Tony and his sister, it gave me hope that, beyond the everyday yelling and hitting and tattling and jealousy, when there is an significant moment when their sibling is hurting, they will come to one another’s rescue and stand beside one another.

The public speaking experience gained that night was just a side benefit to the real triumphs of overcoming one’s fears and the reward family loyalty. Now that is worthy of applause.

Need more hope for everyday parenting? Discover ways to express love to your kids through simple, everyday efforts in Lydia’s article “Everyday Love” in the February issue of Colorado Parent magazine:

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Jenny is passionate about the important role of mothers in modern America. She believes the role of moms is often overshadowed by popular culture values… like the spotlight we place on celebrities and the celebrity lifestyle. Jenny wants moms everywhere to understand they are celebrities to their Creator.

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