Sometimes it’s the simplest moments – the seemingly insignificant events of an ordinary day – that make all the difference in our lives.
Like the day in high school when my friend Carolyn asked me to compete in a speech tournament.
“Hey, Sally,” she said. “We need somebody to do impromptu speaking at the Old High tournament. Will you do it?”
Carolyn was on our high school’s speech and debate team and her mom was the coach, so she was trying to help fill slots for the tournament.
“But I’ve never done that. I’m not even in a speech class.”
“Oh, come on,” Carolyn said. “You’ll be great! All you have to do is talk and make stuff up. You do that all the time. Come on, it’ll be fun!”
She just stood there looking at me, grinning from ear to ear, waiting for me to say yes.
“Okay,” I said. “I’ll do it.”
It was one of those yesses you say at 17 that sets a course for your life that you don’t appreciate until years later.
So on a Saturday in the winter of my senior year of high school, I showed up at the tournament, competing in impromptu speaking, without ever having had any instruction in how to give a speech. In impromptu speaking, competitors take turns drawing a topic, taking a minute to prepare, and then giving a seven minute speech. The judge ranked me fourth in the first preliminary round, but he told me I had potential. He wrote a basic ‘intro-three points-conclusion’ speech outline on the back of my ballot that I memorized and used in the next round. That time I came in second, but I didn’t advance to the out rounds.
Something more important happened, though. I found something I could do. It took years to fully realize that, but I think it started the day Carolyn invited me.
And I can’t help but wonder if my life would’ve taken the same direction had I not had that experience.
Carolyn passed away this past weekend and I regret that I didn’t make the time, nor take the opportunity when I had it, to thank her for that.
But I think she knows.
*The photo above is of Carolyn (right) and me at a Rider H. S. pep rally in the fall of 1979 when we had been asked to come back as the characters we recreated in dozens of announcements over the P.A. system for school events during our junior and senior years, “Lester ‘Roadhog’ Moran and Wichita.”
“Ain’t that right, Wichita?”