I spent the weekend in Duluth – Georgia, not Minnesota – attending a Toastmasters District Conference. It was our first live conference since Spring of 2019, and it felt wonderful to be there again, live and in person. Numerous safety measures were in place, including mask and social distancing rules and recommendations, and a requirement for proof of a negative COVID test taken 24 hours before the start of the Conference. A testing station was set up near the registration table at the hotel, for those who did not take a COVID test ahead of time.

I’ve always enjoyed Toastmasters conferences and conventions, for many reasons – the educational sessions, for starters, which are, indeed, educational and informative. They’re usually entertaining as well. And I found, as I always do, that I learn new things and get new ideas and inspiration not only from the presenters, but from conversations I have – before and after the program – with the people sitting next to me. That’s something I can’t get when I’m sitting at home in front of my computer, connecting via Zoom.

The keynote speakers at conferences often take my breath away with the power and inspiration they provide. That was certainly the case with the speakers this weekend, especially Tawana Williams, who was a thalidomide baby born without arms and with limited use of her legs. If you didn’t know that about her and were simply reading her resume, you’d still be amazed at all her accomplishments. Among other things, she is a businesswoman, TV personality, artist, motivational speaker, CEO, and author of seven books. Her signature story is titled, UNarmed But Dangerous, and she autographed copies by holding a pen between her toes. Her powerful message and example reminded us all that no matter what challenges or obstacles we have in our lives, we can overcome them and succeed as long as we refuse to let them stop us.

I was on the Gifts and Prizes Committee for the conference’s Silent Auction and Raffle Drawings, so I got to watch, up close and personal, the good-natured bidding war going on for the higher-ticket items. I also had the pleasure of delivering gift baskets and gift cards to the winners whose ticket numbers were called during the lunch- and dinnertime raffle drawings. The only part of that that I didn’t enjoy was that none of my numbers were called, so I didn’t have the pleasure of handing a prize to myself. Maybe next year.

And my hope for the conference next year is that we’ll again be able to meet in person. With little or no worry about COVID variations or any other issues – medical or otherwise – that keep us from meeting face-to-face. And whether we greet each other with fist bumps, elbow bumps, or full-on, long-overdue hugs, I know we’ll all recognize, remember, and realize all over again how wonderful it is to be together.

April 25, 2022
©Betty Liedtke, 2022

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