Recently after an assembly a young boy came up to the stage to meet me and to say hi. For my presentations I always have a small desk or table set up for my materials and equipment. This table consists of these items: my pens and pencils (with my very own name on them), a copy of my comic book, “How To Shoot A Basketball”, a microphone, and a small eraser shaped like a Lion. The boy immediately noticed the Lion eraser and with a confused look asked me, “Why is that there?” I do admit that the small Lion is random and I can see how anybody would be confused by the sight of it. I don’t talk about it in any of my programs and it is so small that unless you were standing right in front on my table, you would never have known it was there. I hardly even notice that its there. In fact, in over 5 years of presenting to schools, nobody has ever asked me about it. A small crowd was starting to form and I now had a mob of elementary students demanding an explanation of the random, tiny yellow Lion eraser prowling on my table. I had no choice but to offer an explanation.
I started speaking professionally 5 years ago and as most people know, public speaking is one of the most feared activities for a person to do. Starting out in my career, I would get nervous, better yet, frightened before speaking at schools. I would not sleep the night before, eating was not an option, and I could not sit still backstage before shows. Speaking professionally was very challenging for me and that all started to change after a short encounter with a 1st grade girl from a school in New Jersey.
I was standing in the aisle during an assembly waiting for students to work their way up front for a round of “Simon Says”. Out of nowhere a girl sitting in the front row stood up and walked right up to me reached her hand out and said, “here you go.” She handed me a random, tiny yellow eraser shaped like a Lion. It absolutely caught me off guard. This was not in the script for my assembly and being nervous, I didn’t know exactly how to respond. I quietly asked her what she was giving me and I promise you this is exactly what she said to me. “This is a Lion. Its for courage. I am having fun and I wanted you to have it.” I was speechless. Stunned. This was a 1st grade girl in front of her entire school doing this. I said, “Thank you” and then motioned her back to her seat. I was so amused by her actions that for the rest of the show I did not think about speaking in front of hundreds of people. It relaxed me and gave me confidence. That moment was a major turning point in my speaking career.
I have performed over 400 times in my speaking career in 27 different states. No matter where I am in the country or how many people are in the audience, that Lion sits on my table facing the crowd. It reminds me to have fun and to relax during my performances. There are times that I get nervous before shows and its okay, because I know there is a random tiny yellow Lion eraser that has my back.