Mrs. Decker was accepting no excuses. So, as I stood in front of my fifth-grade teacher and tried to argue why I did not want to participate in Show and Tell Tuesday, Mrs. Decker just folded her arms and stared at me. “Mr. Dixon, since you’re so excited about Show and Tell Tuesday, you can go first,” she said. “But Mrs. Decker,” I pleaded. “I get nervous and sick when I have to speak in front of many people. You don’t want me to throw up on everyone, do you?”
Then, Mrs. Decker shut me down for good. “How about we just call your parents so you can let them know why you can’t participate in Show and Tell Tuesday?” I quickly responded: “No, thanks, Mrs. Decker. Have a nice weekend, and enjoy the day off on Monday, Mrs. Decker.”
Standing in front of 30 classmates to speak about something “I enjoy and love dearly,” as Mrs. Decker explained, was not the primary reason I wanted to skip Show and Tell Tuesday.
I had plenty of toys, board games, and sports equipment to show everyone, but all of that was just stuff to a shy, introverted boy who preferred reading books or spending time with family over going outside to play with friends.
After hours of sitting in my room agonizing about what to do, my door suddenly swung open. “Talk about your uncle,” my excited mom said as if she just won a half-off coupon at the grocery store. “Mom, that’s just weird,” I said. “No one tells stories during a show and …” My mom stopped me before I could finish. “Think of it this way,” she said. “You enjoyed spending time with your uncle, and you sure did love him.”
I thought to myself,” mom has a good point. However, it was still weird for me, especially since my uncle had passed away during the previous month, and thoughts of him brought tears to my eyes. Despite how awkward it felt to be preparing this for Show and Tell Tuesday, I began reflecting on memories of my uncle and writing a letter.
When I hopped off the bus and headed into the school Tuesday morning, one of my best friends caught up with me and popped the million-dollar question: “So what did you bring?” he asked. I paused for a second, then the bell rang.
Once all the students put their stuff away and settled into their seats, Mrs. Decker called me up as the first presenter for Show and Tell Tuesday. “So, what are you going to show us,” Mrs. Decker asked. Embarrassed for a moment, I pulled out the piece of notebook paper filled with words to my uncle on the front and back. “I have a letter that I wrote to my uncle,” I responded. The room broke out in laughter before I could begin until Mrs. Decker stood up and got everyone quiet.
In the middle of the silent room, I began reading my letter. Three minutes later, Mrs. Decker rushed up to give me a big hug as my classmates sat at their desk, applauding and crying. While all of the kids headed outside for dismissal at the end of the day, Mrs. Decker called me to her desk.
“Life can be like Show and Tell Tuesday,” she said. “Sometimes people worry too much about trying to fit in, trying to impress, or trying to be popular. Sometimes making a difference starts with daring to be different and following your heart. That’s what you did today, and I am so proud of you!”
When I started my speaking career six years ago, I treated every gig like most kids treat show and tell. I wanted to be like the other speakers that had gadgets, methods, and funny jokes to impress audiences. I struggled under the pressure of trying to be like everyone else, and I became that fifth-grade version of myself who tried to get out of participating in Show and Tell Tuesday.
One day, while cleaning up my house, I found a letter Mrs. Decker wrote to me. In it, she talked about how my presentation inspired her and the whole class. Mrs. Decker’s letter reminded me that all I needed to make a lasting impact is to speak from the heart and share my story.
If you have ever felt the need to compare yourself or have struggled to believe in what you have to offer, know that who you are and what you have to offer is all you need to make an impact as a speaker, teacher, coach, doctor, firefighter, secretary, or anything else.
Mrs. Decker taught me to embrace the purest form of who I am, and her letter helped me rediscover that person. Now, every day is Show and Tell Tuesday for me because I get to inspire and impact others by sharing my heart and my story.