The Green Vase

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.

The Green Vase.

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.

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4 thoughts on “The Green Vase

  1. Nice one, Vivien! Is this a speech, or perhaps part of one? It has a great feel to it as a story.

    Maybe it’s not long enough to be a speech as it stands, but it would certainly be a good basis for one.

    I’ve based several of my speeches on my blog posts, and because of how I write posts, the resulting speeches end up like “mini educationals”!

    I figure having gone to the trouble of “crafting” the words, I might as well repurpose the content to get as much mileage out of it as I can!

    • Many thanks, Craig! This was indeed a topic I wanted to write about for a speech (for awhile now), but much like you said I could never seem to be able to expand it to speech length without imagining myself making the audience snore. I suddenly remember this topic now and it felt right for a blog post.

      I too have used speeches from blog posts and vice versa!
      Any tips on how to expand this topic?

      • Hi Vivien. Here are my thoughts, and a couple of links that might be useful.

        I really like the end, and I noticed that’s the only time the audience gets a mention. So my main thought to lengthen the piece (without boring the audience, as you say) would be to add an opening paragraph that mirrors the end, and to keep coming back to discussing the listener’s progress in TM at various stages of your talk, likening their progress to the tree.

        Former world champ Craig Valentine says about audiences “They need to know what they’ll get out of your speech from the beginning—not just at the end” (http://magazines.toastmasters.org/publication/?i=129679&p=17 – see his point #15).

        The other thing I noticed was the text uses words like “we” and “our”, so there’s not a 1-to-1 engagement with each listener. Rather than saying “We all come to TM for our…”, you could maybe say something like “If you’re like me, you come to TM for your…”. The words “you” and “your” form that 1-to-1 with each listener, which engages them more. (Craig V’s really big on this e.g. see http://www.craigvalentine.com/use-the-hallway-test-for-a-deeper-audience-connection/ )

        With my own speeches, I find it way easier to talk about “technical” content than about stuff like this! So unfortunately I don’t have many tips for a story-based speech. Still, I hope this helps.

      • Hey Craig,

        Many many many thanks for your detailed tips and articles to match! I’ve never thought about what you outlined in your comment above, but once you have said it, it makes perfect sense. Not like I will be able to magically do this, but it will certainly give me something to actively work towards, and challenge to strive towards, in my future speeches. I have a feeling “the tree” speech will need a lot more work before it resembles something like a speech but your comment has reinvigorated me to try hammering this out into a speech again.

        On a side note, I really need to work on my “technical” speeches as you call them. So I know whom to ask about those sorts of tips as well.

        Many thanks again!

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