Many years ago, I awoke one morning to find a sapling planted on the front lawn, with a note from the city explaining this was their initiative to keep the city green. I don’t remember the scientific name of the tree, only the common name: The Green Vase.
I remember years later my mother said she once thought the sapling looked sad: its head bowed under the weight of its own leaves, the trunk was skinny as a stick (pun half intended), and the leaves drooped like the tree was crying. On that first day, I remember reading the information card fifty times and admiring its tiny figure propped up by a supporting post that was almost as big as it was. I thought the tree was cute.
Days came and went. Every time I left for school in the morning and came home in the afternoon, the sapling was there with its droopy leaves. Eventually someone came by to remove the supporting post, but the tree still seemed to sag under the weight of its leaves.
Driving home from another day of school, I pulled up into my driveway, and stopped. As if by magic, the little sapling had become a thick, sturdy tree with all of its branches reaching high up into the sky. Even the leaves soared upwards as if to say, “I am not ashamed of who I am or where I stand. I can support myself.”
When had the tree grown up so much? I had no clue. The changes must have been so gradual I never took notice, until the one day when I stopped and gawked over how much time had really flown by.
The tree and I met when we were kids – have I become just as beautiful as the tree has? I have received many comments from fellow Toastmasters commenting on how much I have grown in the last year alone. I cannot distinguish whether it is Toastmasters, events in my life, reaching that age when I “grow up” or a combination of all three. Perhaps I have grown a little bit every day, but I never noticed until now when I look back and gawk over how far I’ve come. Just like the Green Vase, I have not fully grown up yet: there is still much I have yet to learn, but I’m still finding ways to stand a little bit taller every day.
We all come to Toastmasters for our own reasons related to public speaking. Some may start off “better” than others, but ultimately our goals remain the same: to learn, to maintain, and to pay it forward. There is always something we can learn from old and new members alike. Even if we still feel like our leaves are sagging by the time we continue our tenth speech, take heart. Every one of us will be able to look back and see ourselves standing tall, sturdy and proud. We are, and we all will be just like the Green Vase tree.