The heart of a redhead in two minutes

I was recently invited to be a judge at a speaking competition that brought together grade 5 and 6 students from a number of Toronto’s private schools, which took place at Holy Trinity in Richmond Hill.

Over the course of a lovely afternoon, I witnessed 19 speeches, all roughly two minutes each, from boys and girls who had the courage to stand up on stage and give a prepared speech in a friendly competition. They all looked so adorable in their school uniforms, standing in the spotlight; some more noticeably nervous than others.

What I was not prepared for was how impressive these children would be. In fact, I was blown away.

Shannon Skinner judges at student speaking competition at Holy Trinity school

Students preparing moments before the speaking competition. I was touched when the young girl introduced me as a judge.








In a short period of time, I learned about female oppression; what it is like to be considered a small person; why the world needs to eradicate hunger; why Muphy’s Law can be to blame when your bagel falls on the floor butter-side down; how to mix and match socks; the house of the future, one of the best sales pitches I’ve ever heard; about sports and superheros; what life is like as a sister of a hockey player; and more.

Every speech was amazing. As a judge, it made my job a difficult one, knowing full well that only four students would win prizes (from two categories, by grade), and the balance of the students — each deserving of recognition for their efforts — would feel disappointment; a heavy responsibility upon my shoulders.

There was one speech, in particular, that touched me. It was from a grade 5 student, who spoke with passion and humour about his life as a redhead. When he was finished, I felt a tear of inspiration trickle down my cheek. This young boy, who looked rather petite in his over-sized uniform, was not only entertaining, he was inspiring. He was inspiring for one reason: he spoke from the heart.

That is when I got it.

As a budding, inspirational speaker myself, I learned something from all of these children, and from this young boy with red hair, in particular. What I learned was this: when you speak from the heart, you will touch another heart – or many hearts.

And this is how you can change the world: touching one heart at a time.

At the end, the school gave me a few minutes to give a talk on the importance of learning to speak publicly, how it develops self-confidence and enables us to believe in ourselves more.

When I sat down and looked over at the young boy with red hair, he was beaming. Then he looked at me and mouthed the words thank you. My heart smiled from deep within.

It still does as I write this blog.

I walked out of the school armed with more education than I had when I walked in. It was an afternoon well spent.


© Shannon Skinner 2012