Recently, I thought about the many possibilities available all around the world where one can find meaning and connection while serving others. Many people believe their world narrows after a certain age which is true when you lose connection.
They forget, however, that if you are courageous enough to try something new, there are limitless opportunities. Two organizations which stand out to me, but are somewhat obscure to the general public, are Toastmasters International and Rotary International.
Let us start with Toastmasters. Why? Well, I am a toastmaster. For most of my life, I had no idea what Toastmasters was. The only thought which popped in my mind was that the Toastmasters organization provided a place for individuals who were Teetotalers and feared speaking in public.
Now, let me be perfectly clear: Those reasons alone are fine, and it is quite noble for an organization to accommodate those in need of such support. I was not sure, however, whether it was the place for me.
In August of 2015, a friend who had been a part of Toastmasters suggested the organization because she knew I was developing another part of my identity as a professional speaker.
Although I recognized the need for continuous practice to hone my craft, I did not believe I fit into what I defined was a Toastmaster. How wrong I was…
Toastmasters was founded by Ralph C. Smedley. In the early part of the twentieth century, he saw the need for men in the community to improve their communication and networking skills.
Although some clubs were formed at an earlier date, Mr. Smedley, who was a director of education for the YMCA, was unable to devote more time to introducing the toastmaster concept until 1924 when the first official meeting was held.
Thus word spread, and Toastmasters International evolved into a worldwide organization. Yes, the primary purpose continues to be about developing effective communication, but it provides so much more.
All clubs are different but most offer some kind of fellowship. Toastmasters are friendly and welcoming, and there is no pressure to speak.
Many people attend regularly and take a role but not necessarily one where they have to speak for any length of time. In addition, toastmasters support each member’s growth and revel in their accomplishments.
If you are a lifelong learner and wish to surround yourself in a community which offers growth, connection and service, Toastmasters is worth exploring. In fact, many members while traveling attend a meeting whenever they are in another city, country or continent.
A few years ago, I wrote a blog about Toastmasters titled “A Hidden Jewel of Epic Proportions.” Obviously, I cannot say enough about this organization.
People not only develop friendships, but when I attended the International Convention, I was informed that Cupid often pierces the hearts of like-minded individuals. You never know…
Like Toastmasters, I knew nothing about Rotary until this year. In my role as professional speaker, I presented at a few luncheons and discovered the wonders of this amazing organization.
Rotary began under the auspices of Paul Harris, a Chicago attorney, in 1905. He wanted a gathering where people of diverse backgrounds could exchange ideas, develop meaningful and lifelong friendships and give back to their communities.
Like Toastmasters, Rotary has grown exponentially and established clubs all over the world. Attending a meeting even as a guest speaker is quite an honor. You see the giving right away.
Rotary works to promote peace, save mothers and children, support education and grow local economies. In those parts of the world which are lacking the basic essentials, Rotary provides clean water, sanitation and hygiene, as well as fights disease.
In fact, at one of the last meetings, I learned that Rotary – along with their partners, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation – have helped almost eliminate the devastating disease of poliomyelitis (polio).
Launching their PolioPlus program in 1985, Rotary took the first initiative to tackle global polio eradication through the mass vaccination of children. I would say Rotary is also a hidden jewel of epic proportions. You can see that connection and service is also evident in this remarkable organization.
I highly recommend these two organizations. Although they are unique in their missions, both Toastmasters and Rotary offer connection and friendship through some form of service.
Perhaps you might consider visiting one of the clubs in your area or, maybe, you might think about another organization which would be a better match for you. Although I gave these two examples, look within and around you and decide what would give you a sense of purpose and connection.
As you are aware, when we involve ourselves in the service of others, we often receive fulfillment in ways that are unimaginable. Whatever you choose, do so with zest, and celebrate your willingness to pursue a new undertaking. Who knows what else could unfold.
Are you a member of Toastmasters or the Rotary Club? Do you have a club or other organization that give you a sense of purpose and allow you to provide service to the community? Please share which clubs and commitments mean the most to you.