Yesterday I got the honor of presenting to some of the staff at a high school here in Vancouver. I was worried because, well, I just didn't know how my message would be received in another country. Perhaps this isn't something to worry about but after all, if I had nothing to worry about, I'd worry about the fact that there was nothing to worry about.
Anyway, this presentation got lined up by Rob as this was his former high school. We walked into the library a bit early and introduction were made to the five teachers that were there and I took a seat and felt out of place. Quickly though a question was directed towards me and I instantly went into presentation mode and the conversation continued on and on all the way to the actual official start of my presentation.
This presentation was a bit different from my normal ones as I only had 35 minutes. No PowerPoint was used and I fully winged the presentation. I was worried that what I was saying wouldn't be heard but these fears were quickly put to rest as I saw tears from a few teachers and I heard comments of, "Every student needs to hear this!"
The time went by too fast, but the response afterwards was one of the warmest I have ever received. One of the teachers then asked me if I'd be willing to sit in his class and speak for a while so I said sure not really knowing what this meant or what I would be doing, but 50 minutes later I was in his room.
He invited the students that were in his room, and his room is designed for students for are gifted students or those that might need a little extra assistance, to sit around this table and asked me to tell my story. This was a different realm for me so I asked for some prompting and that began a magical time as I shared my normal stories and questions were asked by the two teachers, and the students in there.
What made this such a neat time was the way, as the hours cycled, the audience changed and yet even in the change the new students that came in listened with the same intent as if they had heard the full story. Now I should say not all the students in there were on the autism spectrum, but still my words were being heard.
There were several moments during these three hours in this classroom that I wanted to cry out of realizing just what an impact my words were having. At least five times I got a profound "thank you" from a student or a, "I needed to hear that" but the most profound thing I heard was from a person who told me, "You know, how you described who you are and why, I've thought of for some time myself but I just never, well, I just never knew how to say it and, well, I guess I should say thank you so thank you... thank you."
I was just expecting to present to some teachers today and the day became much more than that. That's sort of how my first trip up here in 2010 happened as well as I came up to go to the Olympics and through a twist of fate I presented at a Rotary club. I wasn't expecting or prepared to speak to students today in the setting I did, and I never actually presented in the format I did, but in those three hours I have no doubt that the level of understanding was raised, some motivation was infused, and I hope my message gave a hint of inspiration and hope. I didn't lie and say everything becomes easy. I didn't say that there's a quick fix, but what I did say was that life can take unexpected turns. Four years ago I felt hopeless and thought I had no future and yet here I am now. It took a while, it took a lot of hard work, and in the end here I am.
I am so thankful I was given the chance to spend those hours in that class. It was unexpected, but the impact, I'm sure, will last a long time; I know it will for me.