Wow. I’m speechless. This has been a crazy week here in Las Vegas. Our city changed forever Sunday night, October 1, when tragedy hit a few miles from my home. I can literally see Mandalay Bay out my window every day. I look at it differently now.
My city is known as Sin City for good reason. We are known for our bright lights, gambling, shows, scantily clad women, lust, and gluttony. I can’t deny that. There is much of that here. When I moved here, I was shocked to learn that most people don’t know any of their own neighbors. This was unheard of where I came from back in a small town in New England. Many people think of Las Vegas as a place where there is little community and everyone lives in a casino.
What has been inspiring to me has been the sincere passion for community that burst alive starting in the midst of the tragedy. I was flying back to Las Vegas from my nephew’s wedding that night. My flight got rerouted to Phoenix, AZ. The airport was closed because Mandalay Bay sits right at the end of the runway. I was glued to the TV screen on the plane, watching it all unfold.
It took time to sink in that this was really happening. They kept showing shirtless people who had escaped the situation. I realized they had given up their shirts because they took the time and effort to help stop the bleeding of victims. That was just the beginning of the heart and soul of love in people. Then countless stories began emerging of people helping people and putting others first.
We keep hearing more and more stories while wanting to know the why of it all. People used their vehicles as ambulances in the chaos to help the injured get to hospitals. On Friday as I walked down Vegas Boulevard, the eeriness of the two broken windows on the 32nd floor begged for my attention. I had to almost pull myself to focus on the memorial I was walking to see across from the outdoor concert venue. It is our choice to focus on the windows or the beauty of people helping people at a time when it is needed most. It is a time when people want to help and aren’t quite sure what to do.
Online there are so many conversations with people arguing and emotions escalating. It is easy to get caught up in anger and opinions. I’m focusing on the people who are doing, not just talking. I was inspired by what Greg Zanis, a retired carpenter, did. He made 58 crosses, one for each departed soul. Here is the coolest part. He then drove from Illinois to Las Vegas with his 58 white crosses bearing the names of each victim. Wow, it made me ask myself, what have I actually done?
What can we do as speakers? More than we think. In every audience you and I speak to, we have hurting souls in our audience. We sometimes forget that although people want us to believe they are just fine, it is not necessarily true. I love the perspective of Past NSA President Terry Paulson, CSP, CPAE, who said about us as speakers, “We are merchants of hope.” When we take the stage we have the privilege of influence. There are people in front of us who are hurt and considering violent acts. There are people in front of us who have been victims of violent acts. Will you commit to being better at your craft to bring a deeper hope?
What we do offstage determines how well we do onstage. If you speak for one hour in a week, you still have 167 hours to infuse more impact into that one hour. Each hour of your preparation affects every audience member. If you are in front of 200 people your effort is multiplied 200 times. Think about it. How many hours did you spend this month improving your speech?
I’m inviting you to put time aside each week to improve your stories and speeches. We get so little time on stage that we need to leverage it. Get a coach. Take another class. Read another book. You had a reason for wanting to be a speaker. Reexamine that reason, and commit to being world-class. Dig deeper to give more every time you present. Doing makes the difference.
The events of the past week showed and continue to reveal the depth of the soul in Vegas. While others ran out of the area for safety, amazing first responders ran into the line of fire. Las Vegas locals who wanted to donate blood were in such long lines that they had to make appointments for a day or so later. Churches have been opening their doors, praying, counseling, and raising money. A young girl from my church who was at the concert wanted to do something, so she designed a t-shirt to raise money for the victims. Billy Graham Ministries sent Las Vegas a big semi with supplies and a team of chaplains. Steve Sisolak, Clark County Commission Chair from Las Vegas, started a GoFundMe account and has already raised over $10,000,000 for victims and their families.
Yes, Virginia, Las Vegas does have a soul. It’s soul city.
What can you do?
Commit to your craft.
Post what you and others are doing.
Or, better yet, do things, and don’t post.
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