I learned a valuable lesson recently which is simply too important not to share. As a speaker, one thing I had to learn the hard way over the years is that you'll never please everybody. All you can do is the very best that you can with the best of intentions and let the chips fall where they may. And I have often said, "Even if just one person has an A-HA moment that impacts their life - all the time, effort and preparation will have been worth it."
Four years ago, I made a decision to step away from speaking for awhile as trying to juggle both a full-time job and a speaking career was simply taking too much of a toll on my health. It wasn't easy to make the decision and to turn down offers to speak because I knew I just didn't have the energy to do a good job. This year, I felt the spark to accept just one opportunity from a friend of mine who was organizing a Women & Diabetes event, and she wanted me to be her closing keynote speaker. When I asked her why on earth she wanted me and what she was expecting me to talk about, she said simply this: "Just tell your story."
At 40, I am still at a point where I feel I have so much more to DO in life and so much more to work on for myself that I haven't "arrived" at some kind of aspirational destination as of yet. And I wondered, "Why would anyone stay to listen to me?" But then I gave my head a shake: it's about the journey, silly! And mine has been colourful indeed. So I accepted the invite.
Preparations began months in advance, and I wanted so much for the stories to come together in a way that was relatable, funny, and inspiring. Given that it was all women, I felt bold enough to bare it all: hormone issues, weight issues, diabetes frustration, career challenges, entrepreneurial failure - it's all been a bit of a gong show, really - but tied it all together with the joys and the things I remember most: MOMENTS. At the end of the day, life doesn't have to be perfect and you don't have to be a "big deal" in order to make a difference in the world. Your difference and your legacy is every day, one person at a time. That was the key message.
When I finished the presentation and watched the video afterwards as part of my self-evaluation, I didn't feel like it was the best that I could do and the flow wasn't quite right, it was too long, I could have woven things together differently, etc. But there was one moment that stood out for me from that whole experience: after my presentation, one lady came up to me with tears in her eyes. When we looked at each other, I just knew that she had found something for herself that was meaningful. We hugged and exchanged business cards and I found out her name was Maria.
A couple of months went by, and then one day in my Inbox was one of the most beautiful emails I think I have ever received. Here is how it began:
"Ever since your excellent presentation at the Diabetes Day in Winnipeg May 6, I have been wanting to tell you how much you encouraged and inspired me with your presentation. It was wonderful to hear how you have overcome the tremendous challenges you faced over the years of your life's journey and how you have managed and risen above all those challenges. You are a wonderful speaker and a very kind and compassionate person. I want to commend you for that and thank God for you."
Maria was especially touched by my story of going back to find and thank a nurse that had made a difference for me at the time of my diabetes diagnosis, and Maria had her own such story of kindness to share. Maria was a child living in Germany during World War II, and always remembered a moment with an "enemy" soldier who once gave her chocolate on her birthday. It was something she never forgot: that even at times of enmity and war, there is a place for love and kindness amongst individual people. Forty years later, Maria went on a quest to find her "chocolate soldier" and over the span of a few years by what can only be described as Divine Intervention, the incredible happened. Maria was flown to England by the BBC on Remembrance Day 1993 to personally thank the Veteran soldier and attend Ceremonies at the War Memorial, a former German refugee and a Veteran British "enemy" soldier side by side. Can you imagine? What a full-circle moment!
I cried puddles of tears reading the story, and knew that Maria had just touched my life as much as I had touched hers. I shared her story with my parents, and for my Dad - who was also a child during the 2nd World War, it brought up a story I had never heard before of an act of kindness he experienced in Czechoslovakia that brought us both to tears. Maria's story created a moment for me and my Dad that we may not otherwise have had.
I am so grateful to have had the honour to speak in Winnipeg on that day, and for the experience and wisdom it gave me. The letter from Maria was a tremendous wake-up call to get out of my self-critical head and back into the present. Sometimes when we think we are there to share our wisdom with others, the wink from God is that we actually have more to learn ourselves. I will always remember that day in Winnipeg.
There are moments of beauty and grace that bind us all through our shared humanity, and they are moments we hold in our hearts forever. They are worth sharing.
If you ever doubt that your life can make a difference, it can.
All My Love,
PS. Many thanks to my friend Carey Tarr who had the vision for the THRIVE Women & Diabetes event in Winnipeg, and for giving me the honour to speak on that day.
© 2017 Sandy Struss Enterprises. All rights reserved.