Have you ever been speechless? I remember when I was in 7th grade and had been convinced to run for student body vice president. I don’t know how that happened exactly, since I was one of the shyest kids in school, but it did. Unfortunately, no one told me I would have to give a speech in front of the whole school, so when my name was called from the stage in the school assembly I was speechless and shrunk down in my seat to hide. It wasn’t that I hadn’t ever spoken in public before, because I had, it was just that this time I had nothing prepared. That impromptu ability only really got turned on by participating in Toastmasters.

Yesterday I had a similar experience, though not so stark and public. I was planning an open house for my toastmaster club and got the idea to present a speech project there involving impromptu speaking. The project description was to respond to a couple of random impromptu topics with 2-3 minute speeches. I read the list of topics and was struck speechless. These were though situational topics, ranging from the “surprise award” to “speaker is late, fill in”, to the “disaster reassurance needed”. There were even a couple of “death of a friend” scenarios. They were not easy topics, to say the least. It took me until this morning to come up with an idea of how I might respond. So now I have an idea what I might say, while I still will not know which 2 questions I will get until I am upfront in my club.

Life is often like that. We can anticipate many things, prepare for the usual stuff. But there will always be surprises, good or bad. And we may not have a lead time to prepare for them. It is important, as I mentioned in an earlier post, to think ahead and prepare for the surprises we might get. But it is also important to remember one thing: sometimes silence is priceless.

In times of sudden loss and grief, people try to help and mean well but often hurt more. There are the fixers, who want to assure us that it will all be okay, that they understand what we are going through, and that it could be worse. In trying to ease our pain they often minimize or attempt to explain it away. They feel they have to say something, that there must be something they can do to help. I know the feeling because sometimes I have been that fixer and maybe so have you. It is normal and it is very human. But sometimes all a grieving person needs is to know that friends are there, that they care, and that they will listen. Being speechless is not always a bad thing.