The following is an excerpt from a December 1957 article written by Toastmasters International founder Ralph C. Smedley.
Not only at Christmas, but throughout the year, we are the recipients of gifts of incalculable value. Because they are so freely given, so constantly available, we tend to lose our appreciation for them. They become commonplace. We need to realize their value.
For example, there is the gift of speech—the power to communicate with others. We accept it as a matter of course, and all too often, we abuse it, or fail to make good use of it.
In your Toastmasters club, you are working to improve your ability to communicate, share your ideas with others and create better understanding. The gift of speech is given to you, in principle, for you to use as you will. If you truly appreciate it, you will wish to make the best possible use of it. That is why we practice speaking and listen to evaluations. We gain skill by practice, and we improve by heeding our evaluators.
Try to think of a world in which there is no communication. Can you imagine what life would be like if you were unable to speak to others, or to listen when they speak to you? There would be no sharing of ideas, no way to gain cooperation. There would be no civilization. If we could not communicate our ideas with each other, there could be no understanding, and no working together.
In your Toastmasters club, you are making use of this greatest of gifts, and as you use it, you discover another priceless gift, the gift of opportunity.
Opportunity awaits you in your own club—opportunity to prepare yourself to take advantage of other opportunities which are all around you in your daily life. These are the gifts which last. Accept them with gratitude, and use them with diligence, to make your own life better, fuller and more worthy in its production.