2016 Woman of Distinction Acceptance Speech

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award“In January I did a presentation for DV service providers in Niagara Falls. Family & Children’s Services of Niagara sponsored the event and several other agencies were invited to attend. We ended up having a pretty good sized group; maybe thirty in all, and agencies like Legal Aide, advocates from the Niagara County Sheriff’s office, a professor from Niagara University and interns from NU attended, as well.

It was the first time I’d ever spoken without a podium and the group was very close to where I was standing, so even with my contacts out I could see the front few rows very clearly. (My little cheat to calm my nerves; I can’t read facial expressions without my contacts/glasses. I don’t get distracted or emotional if I can’t read the emotion on my attendees faces!)

The hour long presentation went well; lots of good questions and comments and even some laughter and tears. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves and get a lot out of the presentation except for one woman. She was sitting in the front row, directly to my right. I don’t want to say that she had no expression on her face; the best way to describe it was stone. She sat there the entire time looking like stone. There was clearly something wrong, but of course I didn’t have any idea what was going on. I thought that maybe she didn’t like the presentation; maybe she didn’t want to be there? I had no idea. But once I was through speaking and went to a side table to sign books, she was up and out of her seat and heading for the door.

When I got home later that night my husband asked how it went and I said great, except for that one woman. I just couldn’t figure it out; it bothered me that she looked so bothered. My husband assured me that it probably wasn’t the presentation; maybe she didn’t feel well or maybe something was going on at home or work. I agreed that he was probably right, but still… if you could have seen her face, I lamented.

“Well, maybe she didn’t like the presentation,” he reluctantly suggested. “You’re never gonna reach everyone.”

I agreed to focus on the positive and went to bed feeling satisfied that I’d given it my best effort. When I got up the next morning just before six, I noticed the Messenger light was already blinking on my phone. Assuming that it was one of my grown children that live out of town, I braced myself, prepared to handle whatever news was so urgent that it couldn’t wait until I’d had my coffee. But it wasn’t one of my kids; it was the woman from the night before.

She wondered if I remembered her (of course I did, I wanted to say; you made me nervous the entire time I was speaking, trying to figure out what was wrong!) and apologized for not coming over and saying hello after the presentation. She said that she was afraid that if she said anything, she would break down in tears in front of her co-workers. She went on to explain that her mother had been brutally murdered four years earlier by a long-time boyfriend.

We spoke at length; she said that she’d read Leaving Dorian and had recommended it to friends and family members alike, even posting about it on her Facebook page. She also had nothing but kind words about the presentation. Before we said goodbye she told me, “Don’t stop doing what you’re doing; WE need you.”

You know, even after all of the really wonderful things that she’d said about me and the book and the presentation, all I could think was – she wouldn’t have had any of that without you. She read one of the copies of the book that your Club donated to Family & Children’s Services! And there wouldn’t have been a presentation if I hadn’t met Karrie (Gebhardt, Director of Passage House) right here at the Hat Luncheon (fundraiser in October, 2015). This woman felt supported and understood and was able to take all of that positivity back to her friends and family members who also suffered after her mother’s death, because of your efforts.

I’m sure there are times that you wonder if what your Club is doing is actually making a difference. The world is a vast and complicated place, and the problems and heartaches of women all over the world can seem far too complex to ever make a dent in. Your efforts may seem small, but they’re like a tiny pebble dropped into a pond. The ripples that come off of that one tiny pebble reach every corner of that pond, no matter how large the pond is. Your fight for social justice, gender equality and the safety and education of women all over the world is unique. It’s a battle too few choose to fight. The world is a better place because of The Zonta Club of Niagara Falls, New York.

It is with the utmost gratitude that I humbly accept this award. Thank you.”

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