A Love Letter to District 61 Toastmasters

by Kimberly Dueck, DTM, D61 District Director

Do you know that the most difficult lesson I learned was to set myself ahead of the conflicting priorities of work, Toastmasters, family, friends, etc? It seems counterintuitive, but if you don’t have any energy left in your tank, you can’t look after anyone else. My story begins the day  after a nasty ski accident as I lay in bed,  with major breaks to my right femur and humerus bones and all I  worried about was that my dreams of serving our district at the senior level were over. In the stillness, I felt a deep purpose to serve and I didn’t allow my serious injury to slow me down. That was the beginning of a very long recovery, filled with love and support from all of you – my beloved District 61.

Little did I know that this process of healing from my injury would provide important lessons for leading our district through one of the toughest years in our history … with the COVID-19 pandemic. Prior to this leadership journey, I had long felt like a lone wolf; thinking it’s easier to just do it myself. When the love and support came pouring in after the accident that crippled me and I could not look after myself, I realized that there is so much more fulfillment in life when I accept the help of others. My recovery happened faster because of the amazing support and energy others sent to me. Leadership in Toastmasters is no different.

I was elected District Director and then it hit all of us! We were in the middle of a pandemic!  I felt the weight and the pressure of leading this amazing district early in the year. It was overwhelming at times. I wanted to be there for everyone and I did not feel like I was adding value to my team.

The answer? Creating space for regular meditation and yoga practice, exercise/rehab, “screen-free” Sundays, and scheduled time for friends and family helped me keep stress levels down, improve focus, and inspired more creative ideas to solve some of the most complex challenges we faced.

Like my recovery, where my beloved members had rallied around me, I saw how everyone came together this past year; taking our meetings, conference, and other events online in record time was truly remarkable. We did this because we believe in the power of this community. We depend on each other for connection and friendship. We have proven that we can overcome just about any obstacle when we have each other.

Another important lesson that I learned was to put the needs of the team ahead of my own. I’m an ideas person and I love getting involved. I quickly realized that the team was most effective and happy when I set the direction then stepped out of their way, serving as their cheerleader. We achieved success as a result of the team’s incredible effort. I could not be more proud of how well our senior team did this year facing incredible adversity.

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, GO TOGETHER.” – African Proverb

I want to iterate the power of community and being part of something bigger than ourselves. To understand and internalize that we are stronger together. As I finish this journey as your District Director for the next wave of leaders to take the reigns, I say THANK YOU District 61. Thank you for all of the passion, energy, and support you bring to each other. You have inspired me deeply and I will forever remember how you made me into a better person.

All my love, Kimberly