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An in-person day at our club filled with Education, Empathy, Excellence and Fun

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Fellow Toastmasters:

I suddenly felt this biting urge to put my, oh so meandering thoughts into print and share them with the rest of you regarding our last meeting, along with some additional thoughts to boot. You know I wasn’t quite feeling up to it to attend last Wednesday‘s meeting but I’m glad I did after all. Just you wait till you get to the other side of 95 and you will then often find yourself constantly preoccupied with groans and moans and aches and pains all in those weary joints of yours! But let’s hope that you are not burdened with such challenges. Anyway, back to the topic at hand. At this meeting what we lacked in numbers we certainly made up in unmatched quality!

Gosia Suida was our Chair and she started off the meeting with a wonderful exposé on the subject of disabilities, the theme of the meeting. The month of October being dedicated to Disability Awareness. Of course, we are all aware of disabilities in some shape or form but Gosia‘s animated presentation gave us a more heightened awareness of this often invisible disability; of how we should respect this disability in others who may be experiencing it – the unseen side of this disability especially, as opposed to the visible side where for example, you can very well see someone in a wheelchair.

She went on to assert that disability doesn’t mean you need write the person off, rather that we should regard and respect them for all their potential. As she spoke, I was reminded of that not too oft used saying: To belittle is to be little! How so apropos! And she ended her opening presentation with a story of a boy named Matthew and the challenges Mathew had to endure especially, in his earlier childhood days and how he has worked on overcoming this impediment and is now a productive member of the workforce and of society!

And she ended this opening segment of her presentation by letting us in on a little secret, namely, that Matthew is indeed, her very own son! Bless you Gosia and bless dear Mathew! You also reminded us that you are a “special needs” teacher. We can for surely see that Gosia, for as we look into your eyes we see two very intense “pupils”!

The rest of the meeting was equally engaging with some of us playing dual roles. Each excelled in explaining their roles and also in reporting their findings or observations when called upon to table their report in the latter half of the meeting. Ashok Mistry also played the role of Toast and Timer and in keeping with the theme proposed a toast dedicating the meeting to the: ‘Awareness of Disabilities’! Gosia doubled up as Grammarian of the evening tabling the word “Advocate” as the Word of the Day. Besides being scheduled to deliver a speech Brian Patton volunteered to be the QuizMaster as well. Our HumourMaster redeemed himself by not messing up the punchline which he usually is wont to do. And yes, you guessed right, it was “yours truly”!

The “meat and potatoes” part of the meeting which followed was very appetizing! Robert Jung excelled in his role as TM. He has truly come into his own in his delivery, his very own style of introductions and his segue from one speaker to the next, spiced with some nice, subtle humour. Great job Robert! As for all the three Speakers they truly kept us in splits, each with their own inimitable style of humour.

Sarabee Prasath was doing his Icebreaker and what a spectacular job he did for an icebreaker; no notes whatsoever, engaging us like he was a seasoned speaker and sprinkling his presentation with lots of off-the-cuff humor! Absolutely a great job for someone who openly claimed that he was frightened out of his wits to dare speak in public! Great effort! We look forward to many more stellar performances from you, Sarabee.

Our other two speakers, seasoned as they come, Mark Poole and Brian Patton, lived up to their billing. Each entertained us with equally large doses of humour! From among all three of them one couldn’t quite tell who outdid whom! Mark amused us heartily with the Business English lingo and what not to do or say about it – all with oodles of humour! As for Brian, he indulged us with his adventures of negotiating the many, many traffic lights on his way home along Mississauga to Brampton after our usual in-person meetings! Each time he approached the next intersection he saw red! And another red, and yet another! And it wasn’t because of the “nut” behind the steering wheel! Hilarious narrative, indeed!

It was hard choosing the Best Speaker but ultimately it went to Sarabee for his excellent icebreaking effort! This perhaps can be a timely moment to remind members that when we vote for the best speaker we need keep in mind how best each presenter excelled in their category of difficulty – how best each met their particular assignment Objectives. Important to note!

At this point we had a welcome Meeting Break though I’m not sure if it could be called a break because Gosia challenged us to solve a puzzle which she projected up on the screen for our studious attention. Each table was designated a team. On the overhead screen was a bunch of varying sized geometrical shapes and we were to assemble them together to form an object. Needless to say I was no help to our team, and besides, I had more pressing things on my mind, I had to make a beeline for the washroom! I always believe in first things first. I came back to be told that those geometrical shapes made up a box! I for one would never have figured that out because I am known to think inside the box! Anyway, Gosia gave each table a handful of bite size chocolates as consolation for our effort! A nice delectable end to our break! And then the meeting resumed once again.

So after the meat and potatoes menu we needed a little cleansing of the pallet – a “touch of sorbet”, if you will…and that was provided by Gwyn, our TableTopics Master. She challenged each and all of us to embellish further on what or why each personality (she offered us to choose from) was recognized universally for, from varying walks of life. Al Brown grabbed the Best TT Award for his descriptive and eloquent dissertation on Helen Keller, a disabled American who strongly promoted the rights of the disabled. Good thing I didn’t get Helen Keller or I would have painfully displayed my ignorance not knowing who Helen Keller was! Thank God my choice happened to be Nelson Mandela who suffered much ignominy in his fight for freedom in South Africa. But, typical Manny, in the heat and tension of the moment he clumsily fuddle duddle‘d his way through his topic! Good selection with your choice of topics, Gwyn!

Following the cleansing of our pallets we were then served “dessert” and how delicious it tasted! Sharon, our General Evaluator, lived up to her reputation as always, whenever she is at the lectern. She gave a clean and concise account of the meeting as she saw it from her perspective, but before that, she introduced the Evaluators with a professional flair and nice interludes between inviting the next evaluator to the lectern.

Chinmayee Lakkad evaluated the icebreaker speech and did a great job overall, providing a lot of positive points in Sarabee’s presentation, giving him much encouragement for his effort and offering a few excellent pointers for improvement. Al Brown was in his element exuding humor as he critiqued Mark‘s presentation. And Ashok wasn’t to be out done, after all he is our current President and no “Mistry” to us, doing a fine job analyzing Brian’s road driving interruptions and doing this all as a “backseat driver”! All three did great evaluations but unfortunately, only one could be voted winner and that one was Chinmayee!

Gosia did a good job closing the meeting, gradually bringing us down from those heady moments of excitement and euphoria that pervaded the room all throughout the meeting! The chemistry was certainly there! Our apologies to those who weren’t available to taste this fine “dining” experience! We acknowledge we’re often confronted with competing commitments. But for those who could’ve made it but simply succumbed to the feelings of lethargy or felt prey to just deciding to stay away for no apparent reason, you certainly missed a very energetic and productive evening!

Initially, as I said at the start, I also was actually intending to stay back but my better judgement made me change my mind and was I happy that I did attend. Your attendance, my Fellow TMs is important, YOU are important to all the rest of us. Do make an effort to attend. Meeting in person is a totally different experience giving you the opportunity to engage in animated conversations with each other while allowing ourselves to expand our social and networking skills. Get full value for your membership dollar.

Let’s all join in unison to raise our Club, yes, our very OWN club to those dizzying heights that we once enjoyed in those glory days prior to Covid! For many years past we have had the distinction of being recognized as a world renowned club. We owe it to ourselves to maintain that enviable status. Let us not underestimate the importance of ONE. And yes, bring yet another one along as a guest! We will all benefit from that gesture. Brian and I have exchanged many a thought about the status of our club. We both felt we can do better! But not without your participation.

Whatever your thoughts on the matter I wish the best for you and wish you much success in all your endeavours within the club and beyond! We have an excellent mix of members, so let us come out and share our skills and talent and efforts for the benefit of all. Individually and jointly we can be the richer for it. As a longtime member of this club (though not as long as Al Brown!) I’m sure I speak for him, as well, and along with our President and his Executive, and with the many other long-standing members of the club I say that we think passionately about this club and wish it’s continued success!

Let us therefore, strive together to make it happen. Remember, alone we are just a drop of water…Together we are an ocean! So let’s make “current” “waves” of success! And let’s continue to indulge in a Club filled with “Fun and Excellence! Someone pass the CoFfEe please! (Coffee is an acronym that stands for: a Club of Fun and Excellence.)

Manny Sequeira, DTM

PS: I may not attend as often as I would like to, given my current circumstance, but I will continue to do my part in any which way for the greater good of the club. I have benefitted much over the many, many years as a member. I have also given back as much as I could and will continue to do so, the best way I can.

Created by Manny Sequeira DTM