For nearly a decade when I was in my 40s, I was involved in the Virginia segment of Business and Professional Women Clubs, Inc. (BPW). Unbelievably, the group was founded way back in 1919. The tagline of the current iteration of the group is, “Developing the business, professional and leadership potential of women.”
Back then to me, our mission was simply this: women helping women. We taught classes in finance, public speaking, networking, mentoring, professional image, and leadership. Working tirelessly in fundraising, we established scholarships for high school senior girls.
While I was active in the group, my best friend Betsy (likewise in her 40s) was enrolled in a community college in Pennsylvania. She saw a flyer announcing that the local Pennsylvania affiliate of BPW was offering a $500 scholarship for a winning essay on being an older student in continuing education.
Betsy wrote her essay and was the oldest of three winners. She was invited to accept her prize at the club’s next meeting, and the instruction was this: Be prepared to give a speech. So my friend considered carefully what she wanted to convey.
As you may recall from Saturday’s post, an acceptance speech graciously thanks the giver and helps the audience feel good about having this person chosen as the winner.
Speaking as the first of the three winners, Betsy spoke from the heart. She told them that the prize money was important to her as the coal mines had recently closed down and her husband was temporarily out of work. But more importantly, winning was good for her ego. She hadn’t worked outside the home for twenty years except for volunteer and church work. Living in a small town, she hadn’t had a lot of exposure to the world at large. As she offered her sincere thanks, Betsy shared that knowing her words in the essay moved the committee to choose her as a winner really pumped her up.
As Betsy returned to her seat while the audience applauded, a woman leaned over and whispered to her, “That was wonderful. But I would hate to be one of the other winners following you!”
And unfortunately for them, the other two winners had NOT come prepared and simply offered some sort of generic thank you.
Most of us were brought up to say a proper thank you. I want you to remember that the next time you accept an award or prize.
“In ordinary life, we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give, and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer