Toastmaster’s has two speech contests every year— one in the fall and the other one in the spring.
I volunteered to count ballots for our club’s spring competition. The officers of our group had another plan for me.
About a week before the event, I was asked to join the contest. While I tried to get out of it by claiming that my life at home was too crazy with everything going on with Dick, the rebuttal was that I needed to take my mind off of my troubles and writing a speech would be the perfect solution.
I titled my speech, Nothing To Poo Poo About.
It went like this:
If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.
That simple phrase, ( a quote by Wayne Dyer) became quite meaningful to me after an experience I had recently.
About a month ago, I was driving home from visiting my son at Indiana University for Mom’s weekend at his frat.
To break up the monotony of the long, tedious ride, I stopped at Fair Oaks Farm off of Highway 65S in Indiana.
They have a café that serves fresh, homemade dairy products including milk, cheese and “to-die-for” ice cream.
I decided to treat myself to a little frozen treat.
As I was savoring every spoonful of my decadently rich, creamy scoop of mint, chocolate chip, I strolled around the gift shop area admiring all the adorable trinkets until I saw a display that made me stop and take a double look.
I couldn’t believe my eyes.
In fact, my reaction was so strong, that not only did I begin to lose my appetite, I actually became nauseous.
I was staring at a full display of paper products including stationary and note cards made out of recycled cow poo.
At the time, I believed that this was a case of recycling gone mad!
When I came home, I couldn’t stop talking about how ridiculous this was.
In fact, initially I was going to write my speech on how sometimes we could overdo a good thing. Using this as an example, I was going to talk about when enough is enough…and when things could be taken too far.
However, when I was researching that subject matter, something very interesting happened.
I couldn’t remember the name of the product.
I called Fair Oaks Farm and described what I was looking for. The woman I talked to, very quickly and matter-of-factly told me it was called Poo Poo Paper. Without missing a beat, she informed me that they didn’t have any in stock, but would be getting a shipment in the next few weeks.
“Do you mean this is a popular product and you are sold out?” I asked.
“Yes, but you can google Poo Poo Paper to find out where you can order it online,” she responded.
I didn’t have the heart to tell her that I had no intention of buying that crap.
But, for the sake of research, I google Poo Poo Paper.
First I found a website that sold unusual gifts. There were several reviews for Poo Poo Paper. Ah Ha!!! I thought for sure I was going to find a lot of people who agreed with me.
Surprisingly though, that was not the case.
The reviews were all positive.
Everyone raved about how wonderful the company was. The comments included…It was so creative, novel and fun…environmentally friendly…makes a great gag gift…perfect for children…and for those who love everything about cows. (Really??? EVERYTHING ABOUT COWS???) A school teacher even remarked that she bought the product and used it to teach her class about the life cycle in nature.
Hmmm…maybe I was missing something here and needed to change my opinion.
Then I found the company website.
I was pleasantly surprised by what I discovered.
This was a very creative, educational, informative, well thought out and designed site. That’s no poo! I even laughed as I scrolled through the pages. One of their slogans was, “We’re Number One At Number Two.” Another was, “We Take The ‘OO’ Out Of Poo.”
This wasn’t a gimmicky, off-the-wall, cutesy business. They had a purpose. Originally they started out with elephant dung. They washed and sanitized it until only the clean, undigested grass and other fibers were left. Then they dried them on mesh sheets in the sun. The finished product was sturdy, durable paper which was odorless and neutral in color.
Out of that, they created over 150 beautiful and useful products, including stationary, note cards, photo albums, picture frames and elegant paper flowers. In the process, they created new jobs, built up a profitable company and donated a portion of their proceeds to elephant conservation and welfare.
Now I didn’t know how anyone could look at a pile of stinking, nasty elephant poo and envision all that they did, but it certainly made me think…if you change the way you look at things…the things you look at change.
Then I had an ah-ha moment.
Recently, life has dumped a major pile of poo on me.
Instead of dealing with my mess negatively by being depressed, angry, bitter, hopeless and fearful, I needed to follow the philosophy of the creators of Poo Poo Paper.
I had to find the purpose behind what I was facing. How could I handle it with a sense of humor and have fun? (The million dollar question!!!) What will I gain and how will I profit from this experience? Who will I help as a result? And most importantly, how do I turn my ugly, stinking mess into something that is beautiful and meaningful?
My plans were to return to Fair Oaks Farm in a few months. While there I would treat myself to another scoop of amazing ice cream. Heck, I might even go all out and treat myself to a complete meal. One thing was certain: I would be making a bee line straight to the Poo Poo Paper display. I planned on buying one or two of their products—not to ridicule the company, as a gag or even to give away as a present. I would be buying it for myself. Upon my return home, I would put it on my desk so I’d be able to remind myself every time I’d be about to make a snap judgement or feel that my life is trapped in a hopeless situation that If you change the way you look at things…the things you look at change.
Not only did I win the contest at my club level, I competed and won at the area level and continued on to compete at the district level as well. While I didn’t win all the competitions, I knew I walked away with the ultimate prize: the realization that I could handle this divorce and whatever else life throws at me as long as I change the way I look at my circumstances.
I guess it was a great thing that I decided not to count the ballots at the club contest after all.