I was deeply honored to have been nominated for the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Caregiver award sponsored by Duke University Health System for my ongoing work with the Durham Rescue Mission Toastmasters Club. To be sure, this has been one of the most challenging undertakings of my life and one of the most rewarding.
Over two years ago, when Toastmasters Area Director, Manu Laksmanan invited me to help with what he envisioned as a six-month project, I did not agree to do so because I thought there might be an award involved. I doubt that any of my fellow award nominees began doing the work they do because of an award incentive. We step up to this sort of work because, as Dr. King said, “The time is always right to do what is right.” I knew I had skills that could empower an otherwise seldom-heard part of the community to develop a clear voice and build the courage to speak up and step into a better life.
I would hazard a guess that few people could achieve an award like this alone. Thank you to my boss, Dr. Geoff Rubin for nominating me and for allowing me to flex my time two days a month, coming in early or staying a bit late so that I can take a longer lunch break to attend daytime meetings. Thank you to Dawson Riggs, President of Duke Toastmasters. Jeb Sturmer and Manu Laksmanan fellow toastmasters who initially began this project with me and wrote letters of support. Thanks to my husband, John, who supports this effort in many ways. Very special thanks to members of the Durham Rescue Mission Toastmasters Club who also wrote letters of support: Chaplain Lynn Holloway, Tony Hairston our Vice President of PR, and James Davis Vice President of Education. Their enthusiasm and continuing growth as speakers and leaders, above all, keeps me energized for this project.
Like Dr. King, I have always believed that we are all connected. As he said, “Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be.” Our community, and indeed our world functions best when we empower all of our members to function at their personal best.
I have also found another great paradox to be true; in seeking to give, I have received. The Durham Rescue Mission Toastmasters Club has inspired me as I repeatedly witness the incredible resilience of the human spirit and the transformative power of our shared stories.
As a Toastmaster, it was a particular joy to be nominated for this award which associates my name with that of the great American leader and orator, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. If his legacy teaches us anything it is that we must all continue to work to help each other by whatever means and opportunities life presents us.