In 2003, I led a select group of Toastmasters on a grand mission to spread word of the organization across Sri Lanka and South Asia. Our main aim was to build clubs, but the journey yielded unexpected results.
I received a call from a distressed gentleman who worried about his son. He requested details of our club meetings and asked for help to guide his son in the right direction. He ended the call by asking me to “please make a man out of this boy.”
Soon after, a young man walked into one of our club meetings. He was tall, dark and handsome—confident but misguided, self-assured but a little arrogant, determined but lacking in direction. As soon as I saw him, I realized there was something different, something special about him. I shook hands with him and said, “I see something in you … but I don’t know what it is.” I urged him to join the Smedley Toastmasters Club so we could embark on a journey to uncover his talents and discover his greatness.
“What does it really mean to believe in someone?”
That simple line, that special moment, remains etched in my mind to this day. It was the start of a meaningful relationship. We spent several years together, smoothing the rough edges and peeling off layer after layer to unearth the talents he had within. His competitive speaking career started in Toastmasters, and despite nine years of consecutive failures, through tenacity, determination and hard work, in 2014 Dananjaya Hettiarachchi became the World Champion of Public Speaking!
Having traveled across the globe visiting clubs and districts, I have seen the immense potential within our members throughout the world—that special something within each individual.
I feel something for you. My fellow Toastmasters, what is belief? What does it really mean to believe in someone? What does it take to really feel for someone whose life can be changed? In a world where we expect quick results and quick fixes, it is a rare act to have faith in another person—to genuinely feel for that person.
Here in Toastmasters, I believe this expression is still alive. In my world travels I have urged leaders to have faith in people, to genuinely feel for them. Belief can do a lot for an individual. Genuinely feeling for the individual can be life-changing. In the case of Hettiarachchi, the boy I mentored in Sri Lanka, it produced a World Champion.
Inside each of us is a unique quality, a hidden talent. I have seen and felt this in Toastmasters across the world. The Toastmasters program, particularly with Pathways, is life-changing. If you believe this, as I do, then you can bring out the best in yourself as well as in everyone around you.
I see something in you, I feel something for you, and I know what it is! It is your true potential! Cultivate it, and let it shine.
BALRAJ ARUNASALAM, DTM