Thanksgiving, Yes! This is the time of year to gather with love ones for what I like to affectionately refer to as the four Fs: Fun, Football, Food, and Family time!
The way we have fun is by entertaining each other with games such as Monopoly, Bingo, Spades, and Gin Rummy. Some of the more physical fun might include croaker sack races, foot races, dance contests, and football tosses. Personally, I especially love challenging any takers, kids or adults, at dancing. The truth is, I am an exceptionally horrible dancer, but I have loads of fun while “getting my groove on,” or whatever you want to call it. It usually brings out lots of shaking of the head and statements like “What is he doing?” “Is he having a seizure?” Or, “I need a drink after seeing that.”
As for football, not everyone is interested in watching incredibly athletic men passionately chase after an oblong shaped ball made of pigskin. Of course, but that doesn’t stop most of the family from crowding in before the TV where there are lots of comments like, “Ah man! Are you kidding me?” “That was a catch!” “Ref, what’s wrong with you?” And, “No!!!!!” To be honest, there are also some more colorful expressions as well, but we will leave those to the imagination. I am sure you know exactly what I mean.
For anyone who has seen my belly, it should come as no surprise that another favorite part of Thanksgiving is the food! That fat cat Garfield has nothing on me when it comes to loving food, food, food! Turkey whether fried, baked, or roasted, collard greens, mac and cheese, cornbread dressing, green beans, butterbeans, potato salad! These are just some of the favored dishes. And while I will not list the desserts, can you picture a slice of warm, homemade chocolate pecan pie topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream? This just happens to be one of my favorites.
As we say in the south, now that is some good eatin’!
Finally, there is family time. I do not know which is sweeter: the variety of desserts or the gifting of quality time. Everyone does not celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday, even in my family. However, everyone who partakes in the festivities during this time of year is celebrated by all; for their presence rather than presents, for their love, and for just being. I, of course, don’t know what you do during this time of year, but whether you have loved ones around or not, I encourage you, too, to find a way to take time out for the four F(s): Fun, Football, Food, and Family.
Happy Thanksgiving my friends, and thank you for being the very special you that you are!
Whatever you do during this time, may it positively serve as a Road to Victory.
Published in the Chronicle section, Tallahassee Democrat, Tallahassee, FL, 1/23/2020
When I joined Toastmasters in April of 2016, my objective was to enhance my communication skills and hopefully transform myself into a more proficient speaker. I knew that it would be a challenge, but I also knew that it was one that I needed to take on in order to accomplish my professional goal of becoming a respected motivational speaker.
That first year was a grinding time for me. I enthusiastically welcomed every opportunity to speak and tried to soak up every bit of knowledge that was offered to me as well as what I overheard being given to anyone else. I would later put those skills and techniques learned to great use by giving speeches to the huge audiences that only existed in the concert halls of my mind.
What I did not know was that all those lessons and practices would fast-track my journey.
I also tried to soak up the leadership aspect of the Toastmasters program. One of the more endearing qualities continually displayed by the leaders of the Early Bird Toastmaster club was how they encouraged others to help and then reinforced their encouragement by volunteering themselves to help wherever necessary.
In taking on the challenge of following in their footsteps, 10 months after joining Toastmasters I decided to enter the club’s International Speech Contest, and I found myself encouraging other newer members to enter the contest as well. My words to them were, “It is an opportunity to challenge yourself and put to use all that you have learned.” Afterwards, each of those members expressed to me how happy they were that they had entered the contest.
I too was happy and excited especially since I won first place!
I continued to win and advance through the next two contests levels. With the third win, I earned the opportunity to compete in the District 84 Toastmasters championship, which was to be held in Orlando Florida. A win there would mean being able to compete for the 2017 world Champion of Public Speaking in Vancouver, Canada.
Was I excited about the opportunity? Yes!
I had about four weeks to get ready. Those first two weeks I studied and practiced every single day. However, that third week I developed a cough, and by the beginning of the fourth week, my doctor diagnosed me with a variation of the flu. The district Champion speech competition was to be that Saturday, and the Monday preceding the contest I couldn’t talk. I couldn’t even get out of bed.
This meant I was no longer able to practice. Although unexpected, I had worked hard for this opportunity. What was I to do? I knew that my Toastmasters family expected me to go and do my very best, and regardless of everything, I was determined to do just that.
Despite my resolve, on Tuesday I was feeling even worse. Over the next two days, I sent up more prayers and put in more doctor calls than at any time of my life. By Thursday I was on the mend and no longer contagious, but I was still experiencing some shortness of breath.
When Friday rolled around, I was still medicated, but I was ready. At least, this is what I told myself. When Saturday came and it was time for the competition, I vowed that whatever happened, I would give it everything I had.
Before I knew it, the Contest Master was calling my name and announcing the title of my speech.
“W.C. Blackmon. ’The Day the Chickens Disappeared. The Day the Chickens Disappeared.’ W.C. Blackmon.”
There have been many books written, documentaries recorded, and debates orated on what makes a champion, and I have no doubt that most, if not all of these, have great merit. However, I also have no doubt that every sportswriter, athlete, coach, film producer, scientist, and human being will agree, that the opportunity to “be” will never take place if one doesn’t take on the challenge. It is, after all, the challenge itself that is the opportunity.
That Saturday night in Orlando, I walked off that stage as a champion! The judges of the contest said as much, but I say this - Every single individual that competed that night was a champion, because when you accept the challenge as the opportunity to do and be your best, you become a champion not just of that particular thing, but also, a champion in life. I ask you enlightened reader, what challenges are you accepting today that will continue to make you the Champion that you are?
- - -
W.C. Blackmon, aka Bobby, is a member of Early Bird Toastmasters Club since April 2016 and Club Coach of Podemos Hablar since June 2019. Bobby is an author, motivational speaker, and artist. Learn more about W.C. Blackmon at Wcblackmon.com | For inspiration, visit his blog at wcblackmon.com/blog
All too often we miss out on the most wonderful opportunities for the simple reason of having a closed mind. Such opportunities could be in the form of collaborating on building a great business, cultivating a lifetime friendship, or cementing a once-broken relationship with a loved one. Each of us must remember that, just as no one of us is perfect, neither are we decreed by God to think the same thoughts, act in the same way, or have the same dreams. With this truth in mind, it only helps everyone when we make the great choice of respecting others; no matter the color of their hair, hue of their skin, personal beliefs, career choice, family name, or political association.
This is not in any way an encouragement to compromise one’s principles or otherwise abandon self-made laws. Being open means that we step away from judging a book by its cover, the person by their color, or an association by anything other than its actions. Being open means allowing a loved one to be who they are and not standing in the way of who they are meant to be. Being open means throwing away that idea that you are too old, too short, too tall, or too young to pick up your dream and run with it!
Strike up a conversation with someone whom you pass everyday but don’t usually speak to; you might enjoy it much more than you think. In fact, you might even meet a new and wonderful friend.
Reexamine that idea you had and see how it can be made to work for you. It just may be the gold mine that you have been seeking.
Reach out and mend that broken relationship that has been weighing on your heart. In doing so, you may receive a pleasant surprise by adding extra days to your life and an even higher quality to your living.
In life there are few guaranties. However, in choosing to live life and allow others to do the same, we all have a greater chance of positively accomplishing our objectives, achieving our goals, and realizing our heartfelt dreams. It is like this that I look forward to meeting you on the Road of Victory.
If you had the opportunity to see something for the first time or just one more time, what would it be? Having lost my eyesight at the age of five, this is a question that I have been asked repeatedly. The answers have changed several times over the years, but for the most part, they have all been physical in nature, ranging from the faces of my babies, my mother, a woman’s graceful walk, the words on the pages of a book by my favorite author, the view of the rising sun, and the seeming change of the environment as it announces that morning has once more come to pass. However, what if we were to look with a different set of eyes, eyes that look not at the physical but rather at the wondrous intangibles that are the true essence of living?
What then I would like to see is a world where children always have enough to eat, shoes for their feet, and clothes to cover them. What I would like to see is for everyone to appreciate the positive skills and abilities of others, as well as true friends for their hearts and loyalty. What I would like to see is for physical, mental, and emotional abuse to come to a silent and abrupt stop. What I would like to see is for every single person to come to the sincere understanding that they are not only worthy and wanted, but purposefully needed.
Upon reading this, some might say that these are dreams, and they would be correct. However, it is also very correct that nearly every thing that we see or experience began with someone’s dream. Whether considering the great pyramid of Giza, the Million Man March, Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, that which is known as the American Revolution, the statue Christ the Redeemer, The Potter’s House or Lakewood Church, an incredible relationship, or the gift of your child, each of these amazing wonders began with the seed of a dream. This means that the incredible is possible, and that the most amazing dreams can become a reality!
All of this being true, what if we were all to step completely away from the tangible for just a moment, what then would you like to see, and what can you do today as well as tomorrow to make that positive and productive vision a reality?
With the loss of my sight to my physical eyes, I later gained the understanding that eyesight is not necessary in order for one to see. Just the same, if we can learn to see a thing in our minds, then bring it to pass through application of thought and positive action, we can also began to see even more of the very good things that the living of life has to offer. It is with this modality of sight that we can all began to see each other make truly meaningful progress on the Road of Victory. I’ll see you there!
Smart watches, smart phones, smart televisions, and smart cars—technology has truly advanced the world in which we live. We can schedule time like never before, speak to others across the globe, watch our favorite shows in better than life-like quality, order dinner, groceries, or pretty much whatever by just saying to machines “order this or order that.” Then too, we can tell rather than drive cars where we wish to go. No complaints from this side, I love it! However, it does beg the question of are we paying too much attention to things and diverting ourselves too much from the living/thinking/breathing people around us? Without a doubt, technology is great, and for various reasons I am a proponent of its continued advancement. However, at the same time, we cannot forget about that which truly makes this world unique and life itself worth living: you and me. When together, we have the extraordinary opportunity to laugh, love, build, create, converse, cultivate, live!
Remember the lyrics to the song that sang “getting to know you?” Well, nothing has changed, doing just that is still an exciting, beautiful, and necessary thing. Challenge yourself with one or all these. While next at lunch or dinner with family or friends, try not watching the televisions that are all around you or accessing your phone for thirty, ok, twenty minutes. When you next see someone with a nice smile, hairdo, wearing a particularly complementary ensemble, or doing a really great job at something, don’t just think the thought, tell them so. Rather than watching that television show that keeps you on the edge of your seat, have a conversation with a friend or loved one with the intent to get to know them a little better. (Just don’t forget to set your TV to record your show, LOL!) Also, why not take a walk with a friend or play a game that requires human group interaction. (Taboo, charades, or Monopoly anyone?)
While advancing technology can be wonderful, the essence of living life is still not about things, but people. Also, for people, human beings to advance, there must be continued positive and real human interaction. Even though the advancement of technology is desired and important to the forward progress of civilization, the constant spiritual, mental, and emotional evolution of you and me is nothing less than essential for our world to move forward in a healthy and positive way. As a people, we have done great things, and we have the capability to do and be even greater. However, as we make these great and wondrous advancements, we must not sacrifice the sound of hearing good laughter, the wonder in seeing the light in a child’s eyes when learning a new thing, the feeling when holding a loved one close, or the shared excitement when a mutual team goal is achieved. These wonders are a key part of our legacy and culture as sentient human beings.
As we continue to advance, let us also make sure that these continue to play a significant positive part in our future as we steadily trek forward, out, and up! It is like this that I look forward to seeing you, on the Road of Victory.