Disconnect. This weekend, with the exception of posting goofy pictures of the Toastmasters Fall Conference on Facebook, I chose an electronic disconnect. Rather than constantly checking to see what my friends were doing across the country and what interesting new blogs or emails or news was happening in far away cities, I focused on the faces before me. I listened to the passion and enthusiasm and humor all around me. The stream of conversation was endless, but I was never bored and rarely tired, so I floated in it, splashed in it and marveled at the energy and education that flowed from the dreamers and doers all around.
We had every body shape, every adult age, every skin color, accent and background, and the stories were both hilarious and inspiring. A Toastmaster can live through a landslide and shine brighter for the polishing. Physiology is no excuse; they use whatever means necessary to move unwieldy limbs and give the world what’s inside them. If their eyes don’t see, their hearts do. If their voices don’t want to cooperate, they follow Diane Rehm’s example because the words must be said. Every Toastmaster gets respect and gives it without hesitation. Every Toastmaster works with what God’s given them, finding that unique voice, that angle only they can work. And work doesn’t surprise Toastmasters, it invigorates them. There is no awkwardness in the conversation, no stranger, no segregation.
Since owning my iPhone®, I have rarely found an hour in which I wasn’t popping online and checking or reading, posting or surfing. This weekend, I spent nearly two days connecting organically instead. I sang my own Happy Birthday song to someone I’d just met, and a room full of strangers became a jazz choir. I laughed and talked so much my throat is hoarse. I listened so much my head is whirling with leftover voices. I even managed to remember names–a challenge for me.
Hope. Passion. Determination. Acceptance. Mentorship. There’s room at the top for everyone. That’s what Toastmasters believe, and it works. It’s worked for generations of people, hope and encouragement refining them and making them shine.
I’m in my hotel right now. I should be asleep, resting for the last session and the ride back to Tulsa, but I’m rigid with emotion. I connected. I turned on my computer to send information to someone I’d met and saw the news about Paris.
Division. Control. Manipulation. Loathing for life. People choose those things when they are vulnerable but refuse to recognize it. Hatred feels more powerful than love; distrust makes a person feel smarter than those who live with the expectation that we should do unto others as we would have them do to us.
Do we love perfectly? No. Do we act with pure-hearted integrity? Not always.
But if your glass of milk has a crumb in it, adding drain cleaner to dissolve the crumb will not purify the milk.
I am angry. It’s the first emotion that rises up in me when I think of the waste of life and the cloud of fear. Anger feels like a knife with which I could slash the grey net of evil that descended in Paris this weekend, evil that delights in the anguish that howls when a loved one’s soul is ripped from our own. I’m angry because evil and bloodshed have driven hundreds of thousands of people to leave the places they love this year, and this weekend, evil has wiped sooty streaks of fear in the towns where they’d hoped to find refuge.
Lord, take this anger. It’s not right, what has been done. It’s not right, and I want it stopped. I want the lies and pride and manipulation stopped before more hearts are lost to this force that can only be called demonic. Take this anger. Rage turns to hatred and hatred obscures the me that I know and the You that I love. I trust You, because You are no stranger to people choosing horror over hope, and You never ever stop winning, always giving us more than we lose. Tonight, I pray for the people of Paris, the people of the world. Give us comfort, the peace that passes understanding. Help us to choose integrity over fear and trust You to guide us with the same clarity You gave Gideon and Elisha. Give that clarity that allows us to do whatever You say is right, and to trust that You can handle things in a better way, a way that doesn’t just perpetuate the cycle of sickness.
Judges 6: 3 Whenever the Israelites planted their crops, the Midianites, Amalekites and other eastern peoples invaded the country. 4 They camped on the land and ruined the crops all the way to Gaza and did not spare a living thing for Israel, neither sheep nor cattle nor donkeys. 5 They came up with their livestock and their tents like swarms of locusts. It was impossible to count them or their camels; they invaded the land to ravage it. 6 Midian so impoverished the Israelites that they cried out to the Lord for help.
Judges 7:7 The Lord said to Gideon, “With the three hundred men that lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hands. Let all the others go home.” 8 So Gideon sent the rest of the Israelites home but kept the three hundred, who took over the provisions and trumpets of the others.
A sweet note: My roommate for the weekend is from India. When we read the news, she told me one thing she loves about America is the way the people come together to support others. She remembered a few years ago when France refused to join us in our desire to fight, but today all of her friends, as well as American news sites, are expressing compassion and support for our neighbors across the ocean. Way to go, guys.