Beliefnet
There's something in the air. No, not spring, although I want it badly. There's a change in attitude brewing. Maybe it's just my "Pollyanna" side. The "Disneyland in my mind" where happy endings occur. But all this week I have been reading messages about people who were lost in the shuffle of life. People who were often overlooked because they were deemed different. You know, the one in school who was the last one chosen on teams in gym class. Or the one who was slower in thinking or looked different because they were handicapped, or often times simply were poor and didn't wear the right designer clothes.

Maybe even you.

I emailed the people who wrote these stories and thanked them for treating others fairly and loving the unloved. It reminded me how cruel people can be. But it also reminded me that just because we are adults now, it doesn't mean we ever grew up.

In my work as a professional speaker, I often call on people in the audience to participate. I never want to embarrass an individual, so in advance I ask for people I can call on. Most times the true "hams" float easily to the surface, but from experience I can recognize a "class clown" when I see one.

A few years ago while planning my program, I asked the meeting planner for names of people I could contact in advance. I had worked with one of the attendees and suggested calling on her again. But the meeting planner said no.

"She's had some physical problems recently. Don't say anything. But she's not as sharp as she used to be," he said.

Sharp--what does that mean? How could a physical handicap dull a mind? I knew her. In fact, when I found out I was doing this program I contacted her. We spoke briefly about her recent challenges but didn't dwell there too long. Renewing old memories of having worked together, reignited a spirit in both of us that I found refreshing.

The meeting planner told me that he would provide a list of better people for the program. I had a choice to make--to do what my client told me or do what my heart told me was right.

The day of my presentation I made it a point to arrive extra early so that I could purposely run into my old friend.

She really hadn't changed much...except for the cane. Seated behind the podium, she obviously had to make a good deal of effort to reach down and shake my hand.

"You look great!" I told her. "So do you!" she replied. Both of us were lying to cover up the obvious changes we've grown into.

"Don't forget--if you need someone to participate, call on me!"

"Oh, yes. I hope I have time. I have so many things to cover," I said nervously.

It was then that I knew the answer. It was my heart I needed to follow. I trusted and believed in who she was.

My hour and fifteen minutes were rushing by. I had talked about communication and pumped them up about who I believed they were and begged them to rediscover their full potential. I used two people from the audience. Each time I called out a name, my eyes connected with hers ever so briefly. I could see the anticipation on her face.

I had flashbacks of standing in line in gym, waiting to be picked for a team. Each pause as the team leaders scanned the crowd made my heart pump faster. Then as usual, I found myself standing among the last few chosen. We were the ones without sports talent, name recognition, or the right clothes. My heart would sink as I often became the last one chosen.

Now I had the power to choose. But this time I purposely held the best for last. Today I chose to give a friend her chance in the spotlight. When I called her name her face lit up. She seemed to forget the "handicap" that slowed her down in recent years. I shared our friendship story with the audience, as she made her way to the stage.

I worked her into the program, and she was excellent. We did some role-playing that seemed to connect in a very special way with the group. They laughed and applauded her efforts, and she stood tall again. Afterwards I saw the meeting planner and mentioned what an excellent job my friend did. He smiled and said, "You should have used her earlier."

But I've discovered that the best is often..."the last one chosen!"

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