He walked up to the front of the assembly – a straight gait, poised, looking straight ahead – like a man with a purpose.
We watched expectantly. Knowing him, he would probably mesmerize us; like he did in each of our classes. We were looking at our Science teacher.
This is the time I was in the 8th – 9th grade (memory is a bit hazy). We revered our Science teacher – he was one of those who could explain Gravitational theories like explaining Apples and Oranges to a 6-year old. He was the most interesting teacher we had in our school – we practically worshipped him and held him in the highest regards.
So, that day, during the school assembly, when one of the regular ‘speakers of the day’ could not make it, he was called to the front by our principal to share a few motivating words to us students. Our usual boredom was replaced by intrigue as we watched him walk up front.
He stood in the front, facing all of us.
“Good morning, everyone – honorable Principal sir, respected fellow teachers and my students…” A few seconds passed. Silence. His demeanor changed. It looked like he’d forgotten his words. “Today, I want to…uh…umm…share something…uh…”
We were still expecting him to say something cool and looked on.
“If you target…uh…this is a quote I really like…and I’m going to share it with you all today…” He looked below at his shoes and his legs began to shuffle. Silence. Awkward silence. A cough. And then, uncomfortable silence.
“Ah…so, there is this saying…if you target the sun, your arrow shall cross the highest tree on earth…” Okay, there it was. “Do you know what that means?”
“That is…if you look at the sun, and target the sun, your arrow can cross the tallest tree on Earth…” Wait, what?
“So, children, don’t be afraid to target the highest point, I mean the sun…the moon, because even if you fail, you will land among the stars…. uh…don’t give up. Thank you”
And he walked back to the back of the assembly, head down, looking at the ground for a while. My eyes followed. I could not believe what I’d witnessed. Him? Nervous? How could that be? If I’d been a Toastmaster back then, I’d probably have counted the number of ahs, umms, long pauses and repetitions but I knew nothing of the sort.
At the front, our principal took over. “Thank you, sir, for your wonderful words – for coming up without hesitation when I requested. And children, as you could see, it happens to the best of us. I know you are scared of coming up here; you make excuses but this is for your own good…”
I don’t remember much after that. I’d trailed off. But my 8th – 9th grade Science teacher’s words combined with those of the principal has stayed with me to this day.
“Target the sun and your arrow shall cross the highest tree on earth…it happens to the best of us…”
That day, I realized something, probably (let’s face it – I was too young to derive life lessons out of single events). But even a person of the best teacher’s caliber could get nervous on stage, fumble his words and forget stuff, it was normal for everybody else – moreover, for students like us who would make excuses each time we were assigned ‘speaker of the day’.
I learnt this – “Everything is temporary – nervousness on stage is permanent”
So, when there was a debate competition, I signed up as the emcee of the event – which I absolutely butchered – made a giant mess out of it. Did I stop after that? Yes, for a long time, actually. But turns out people forget faster than you do. Therefore, keep stepping up. You’ll fumble, you’ll stumble but eventually, you’ll get your balance.
Those few words that day from my Science teacher in front of the assembly and the principal’s words of encouragement – some of the simplest (and somewhat stupid) but something I’ll (probably) never forget.
Therefore, fellow Toastmasters – target the Sun! And even if your sights do not go so far, what matters is you pick up that bow and shoot – your arrow shall travel at least a few meters. But what if your hands shake while holding the bow and you can’t shoot straight? Don’t worry, it happens to the best of us.
Laxmi Sunrise Toastmasters
Semifinalist (Top 28), World Championship of Public Speaking 2023-24