“The way you overcome shyness is to become so wrapped up in something that you forget to be afraid.” — Lady Bird Johnson
It is estimated that 75% of all people fear public speaking and some studies show that people fear public speaking more than they fear death. On Saturday the Game Loft will co-host the second annual 4-H public speaking tournament for those brave kids who might say, “Give me oratory; don’t give me death.” For the most part these are not extraverted kids who long to be on the stage. Few of them participate in theater and many of them are shy. The reason they participate in this event is that they are so enthusiastic about their subjects that they want to share their ideas.
Right now we are working with a young man we will call Sol who is feeling overwhelmed by his fears. He is afraid (and with some justification) that his family will fall apart. Sol is afraid that he can’t cope with the demands of school, and he is worried that his future does not have much promise. Those are some heavy burdens for a kid to carry. He has two options: to fail or to succeed and at this time I don’t know which one Sol will choose.
On Saturday Sol may choose to speak about the role of the Game Loft in his life. He may reflect on the support he has been given and the strength he derives from the friendships of his peers and elders. He may talk about the way his life has changed in the past few years since he has begun attending the Loft. He may talk about the exhilaration he feels when he wins a game or the pride he feels in having friends. He might, for those few moments on stage, get so wrapped up in his message that he forgets his daily fears. If that happens we will have had a little victory. But that victory is not guaranteed. Sol may choose not to be with us. He might stay home with his electronic toys and his family issues and he might retreat into his old patterns.
Sol knows that failure is a possibility because he has seen the members of his family fail so many times. A year or so ago he wondered why he should try to grow up since the adults around him seemed so miserable most of the time. The pattern of failure is familiar in his household but the pattern of hope is new. Becoming wrapped up in the promise the Loft has given him is like learning a new language. It is difficult to learn the words but even more difficult to think and act in that new “language” of success.
On Saturday I will be waiting at the door of the Belfast Free Library for Sol to enter. If he gets there, if he shuffles to the front of the room, if he opens his mouth and looks at the audience, if he makes a speech no matter how halting or tentative, it will be a sign. It will say that no matter how difficult the new language of success may be that he is willing to immerse himself in it. It will show that he has faith in what we are offering through the Loft. It will be a reward to all of us who have worked with Sol. Please send your good thoughts to all the kids who are struggling to find the best in themselves.
SECOND ANNUAL WALDO COUNTY SPEAKERS TOURNAMENT
OPEN TO THE PUBLIC. FEBRUARY 28, SATURDAY, AT THE BELFAST FREE LIBRARY ABBOT ROOM. DOORS OPEN 12:30. TOURNAMENT IS 1-3 PM AND INCLUDES AN ICE CREAM SOCIAL. COME AND SEE OUR WALDO COUNTY YOUTH SPEAK