I taught 9 eleven year old kids for an hour every Sunday and they were such wonderful kids that I wanted them to have confidence in themselves for the rest of their lives. Let's do the impossible, I suggested.
All of them decided they wanted to do the impossible and then I suggested that each of them talk before the whole congregation for their part of an hour.
Suddenly they weren't so excited about doing the impossible. As they thought about all those people out there they shrank back and said: This is scary.
You can do it, I assured them. Reluctantly at first, together they picked out a theme... Then they divided this up into segments for each one of them. I laid it out so each student was to do her own research, and study it but they were NOT to write their talk down or memorize it. When you go to the lectern I want you to reach out and touch that microphone for just a second so you will remember its purpose is to connect you with every person out there in the congregation. You have something important to say, you want it to be heard. That microphone is your best friend.
Parents of those students insisted that I was crazy. Only a very few grownups can give a talk without reading it!
Your kids can do it, I assured them. In the end, only a few of them invited friends to be at the event where they were almost certain their little girl was likely to freeze up in terror.
I had five minutes with them just before the main event to give them a pep talk: You might be worried that you are terrified just because your heart is racing, your limbs want to shake to pieces and your teeth want to chatter. So I want to show you that this does not mean you are terrified.
During the second world war scientists studied cowardice and they studied the way that the bodies of heroes react. But, just by looking at their readings they could not tell which was the coward and which was the hero. There was not one shred of difference in the way their hands and feet trembled or in the way their teeth wanted to chatter. Finally one brave man rose and addressed the scientists.
When I was all alone in a fox hole on the battle's front with shells landing all around me and the enemy advancing with fearsome weapons, I too wanted to know if I was about to run away, or charge the enemy line. I found that I could tell easily. If I could press my thumbs against my forefingers then I knew that I was eager for the enemy to approach so that I could attack. If I was frightened and ready to run I could not do that.
I nodded to each girl and then said. When you get on the stand and you grow certain you are too scared to speak, just give me a nod and I will take your place.
There was a burst of laughter and everyone suggested I would be doing all the talks. Then I summed it up. But before you call on me, try it. See if you can press your thumbs and forefingers together, or if you can clench your toes down tight and let them go again. If you can do that then you are eager to give your talk, not frightened not frightened at all. You have what it takes to be a hero. Use all that adrenaline and eagerness that is surging around inside of you to lean forward and give the absolute best talk you will ever give on earth.
There were only a few more things I suggested that they do, eye contact, smiling with love. Then we went up on the stage. I sat on one end of the line where all of them could see me, just in case they did let fear rule them. One by one they rose majestically, strode directly to their place, reached forward to touch the
microphone for just a second then looked out over that big auditorium to connect with some friends, and smiled. Their every talk lifted me in pride and appreciation. The audience responded with an eager wholehearted approval -- and these truly were the best talks given that year.
Don't be fooled into thinking that just because your heart is racing and your tongue swells up inside clenched jaws that you are frightened. Try clenching your toes; if you can do that you are ready for blast off. Get up there and touch the microphone.
Incidentally, it isn't the toe clenching or touching thumb against forefinger that makes the difference.. it is the fact your mind is still in control enough to remember the test. If you can remember the test and pass it, then you are a hero. The world is waiting for your charge.
Lin Stone maintains a directory of the best insurance company web sites(www.insuranceroundup.com). Accident, and long term care insurance companies are listed on separate pages so you can study each company from a direct link.