We are all just walking each other home

“We’re all just walking each other home.”

Ram Dass 

I was a freshly minted Toastmaster in 1995. The club, JRA, Old Eds, Houghton. The president of the club: Merryl Jubber.

When I was first introduced to Merryl I was immediately drawn to her. She was supremely confident, somewhat imposing, yet surprisingly gentle.

It was Merryl that encouraged me to compete in what was called the Bilingual Speech Contest (English/Afrikaans). I wasn’t sure about that, I’d only had six speeches under my belt, and she wanted me to come up against one of the most articulate and erudite speakers I’d ever met: Erich Viedge, an absolute master of his craft.

I wanted to impress Merryl. Yes, by now I had a small crush on her, so, against my better judgement and trepidation, I said yes.

Totally to script, Erich won the speech contest by a country mile, destroying all competition in his path, including me.

As I was leaving to go home, Merryl stopped me at the door. She congratulated me and encouraged me by saying something to the effect that I had so much potential as a speaker and that I’d  beat Erich one day. She was spot on and that prediction came true.

What nobody knows to this day is that I was so upset that I had lost the contest that I wanted to quit Toastmasters. Merryl pulled me back from the brink.

You see, Merryl was like that … she was an encourager, a cheerleader and fearless when it came to protecting her companions in Toastmasters.

That’s how I remember Merryl.

Soon after, I joined another club in Hyde Park; Anderson Consulting if I recall correctly. I lost touch with Merryl and only reconnected with her a couple of years ago. There she was … an encourager, a cheerleader and still fearless.

I’m going to miss you Merryl. I’m so grateful to you for encouraging me to carry on. Your words of support walked beside me through my entire Toastmasters journey. Your words of support have walked many Toastmasters to their destinations and dreams, I have no doubt.

It feels sad that we as Toastmasters walked you home sooner than both of us anticipated.

Your 5 to 7 minutes may be over and your last speech stopped at the red light, but the impact you made will never be forgotten.

You’re safe now. 

One day, we’ll all be walked home too, and perhaps we’ll be lucky enough to hear the ultimate Toastmaster say, “Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Merryl Jubber with her speech entitled …”

Jacques de Villiers, DTM