Rita the Wonder

Hi, Boomers,

I’m embarking on the speaking journey that will bring a year’s work to fruition.  After a year of thinking and writing and editing my speech, “Retirement Is Not An Option: Act 3,” I am now heading out into the big city to give the speech.  The National Speakers Association tells me that in order to qualify for full membership in the organization, I have to speak 20 times.  And most of the these speeches are free.  That’s what is expected of new speakers.  It’s actually not as bad as one might think – to speak for free.  It’s kind of liberating, really.  It’s kind of like a mission and I’m on this mission with commitment.

It’s going well in terms of bookings for next year.  By Wednesday, I will have completed 5 speeches.  But on Friday, something very interesting happened that made me think that what I’m imparting to my audiences about creating the life they want and deserve in their Act 3, the tools needed to live an awesome Act 3, has real based application.

A speaker never knows what kind of audience he or she is going to encounter.  Friday’s speech was given at a senior center in Thousand Oaks.  It was a beautiful late fall day.  I have never stopped in this part of southern California.  If I pass it at all, I just keep on driving through to Santa Barbara.   But Friday, I became aware of the beauty of the environs.

When I entered the senior center, I guessed quickly that since my name and speech announcement was not posted within sight, when the woman who booked me for the event could barely remember my name, when the room wasn’t ready, when I saw other large rooms filled with seniors playing cards and bingo and eating lunch, the crowd was going to deathly thin.  One of my friends from high school came to cheer me on and thank God he was there because it was perfectly depressing at the beginning.

A very handsome woman walked into the dreary, institutional room – early 60s but not looking like it – confident and well-spoken. She came to hear my speech to see if my speech would be appropriate for her senior residential center.  In the end, it wasn’t going to work for her center, but she had wonderful ideas for me to pursue – other active senior centers to call that were potentials for speaking engagements.  Fifteen minutes after my speech was supposed to have begun, two more women entered the room.  Now we had four.

Rita was a woman whose age I couldn’t determine.  The other lady seemed younger than even 50.  Rita had a kind of scowl on her face; maybe she was a bit agitated and not quite comfortable.

“So what are going to tell us? Rita asked.  “How to make a better life when we’re older?  How are you going to do that?”

I was a little taken aback but I told her to be patient and go on with the journey with me.  The other lady sat in the back to one side.  I thought it best that I begin to give my speech even thought it was difficult to get started with such a small, casual group.  The setting gave off no atmosphere. But I stood on my head anyway and began my speech.

I ask the following question in my speech several times:  “What is it that you cannot live without in your life?”  I ask audience members to write down their answer or answers throughout the speech.  Rita never wrote anything down.  Everyone else did.

After the speech was over, there was a few moments of silence.  I looked at Rita and she stared back at me.  Then she said, “I don’t know what my passion is.”

“Surely you have a passion or two, Rita.” I responded.

“I have many,” she said.  “I do many things.  I sit on the senior citizens council.  I volunteer with a few charities.  I lived in Italy and learned to cook the real Italian way.  I love to dance and go dancing.  But I have more energy and I need to find something more to do. I wanted you to give me that answer.”

“How old are you, Rita?” I asked.

“Eighty-four,” she said.  “But I don’t feel it.  I feel 18.”  She even felt one year younger that I feel.

I stared at her in disbelief.  “Eighty-four.  Why, you are a marvel.  You’ve done so much in your life, have so many interests and are so vital.  You have so much energy.  I thought I had energy but you, dear Rita, have incredible energy.   I thought you might be 65.”

I couldn’t believe that Rita wanted more to do, more to think about.  She was so convinced that she hadn’t had done very much in life.  It wasn’t sufficient enough to have become an accomplished Italian cook?  Rita even taught cooking. ”

The first woman who entered the room began to ask Rita several questions relative to her skill and her passions and they began to engaged in a kind of networking situation.  They exchanged numbers with the possibility of Rita teaching cooking for a variety of senior centers in the vicinity.    It was all what was supposed to happen after my speech – working to create a fulfilling  life, reaching one’s full human potential, making choices to claim our highest level of well-being.

In that dreary, institutional room, lives were changed and pleasing smiles created an energized atmosphere that was otherwise lacking.   Then, the woman who sat in the back came up to me and told me she felt inspired by the speech.  I, of course, was very happy that I had spoken before those four august people.  I learned along time ago in theater, the show must always go on.



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