As a professional speaker, the pandemic has really changed the way I do things. The seminars I usually hold several times a year have disappeared. The speaking engagements I have with groups and companies have either been postponed or moved to a virtual setting. Recently, I was offered a very unique speaking opportunity. My friend Katie, who is a teacher, asked if I would speak to 3 different 4th and 5th grade classes at Franklin Elementary school in West Allis Wisconsin where she teaches.
Being that I have a passion for inspiring people of every age I was quick to accept this generous offer. Shortly after saying “yes” my mind began to race with concerns. “Most adults take a while to understand some of the concepts I speak about. How will 4th and 5th graders understand?” My brain began to do its best to fill my mind with doubt. I shared my concerns with both Margie, the love of my life, and my mother. It was through discussions with both parties that I began to change my focus from how will I do this and what if I do not do well to the more important focus of what can I say to the children that will serve them the best?
It was with this focus I began to consider what I would like to discuss. Of course I was going to share the steps it takes to be a writer and how my book came together. Then I began to ask myself a very important question, “What would I have liked someone to tell me when I was that age?” The focus of the project they are working on is how to improve both their school and their community. I began to think of ways I consider best for helping to do both of those things. Then it occurred to me, my poem! As some of you may recall, this past year I had written a poem on how to have the best city you can. That poem won a city wide poetry contest and is now stamped in the sidewalk in 2 locations throughout the city.
The poem read as follows:
The true worth of great city is not defined by its buildings or how many have a steeple.
The true worth of a great city depends on the quality of its people.
Whether you are a child, a woman or a man,
if you want a great city, be the best person you can.
That is the idea that I wanted to convey to these wonderful and talented young people. Each one of them, just like each one of us has the ability to change their community. We can do so by being the best person we can. I wanted to empower the hearts and minds of the students to understand that each one of them was special and each one of them can make a big difference despite their small stature.
In our own communities it is so important to remind the young people what a big difference they can make. I applaud Katie, Amanda and Jordan, their teachers, for taking on such an important project. Teaching, and learning from, students on how we can make a better community is more important now than ever. Next post we will take a deeper look into my experience with the kids and much of what I told them, and what they taught me.