Stand before the people you fear and speak your mind – even if your voice shakes

by Tasca Shadix, originally published in the 2013 Summer edition of Humanitie magazine. 

In thinking about this issue’s theme of Action, I’ve been reminded of the above quote from Maggie Kuhn who at age 65 helped to found the Grey Panthers in the United States. Her words hit close to home for me, as I’m terrified of public speaking. I would much rather scribble away on my computer than stand before a group, with all eyes on me, waiting to hear what I have to say.

Working with HSS has forced me to confront that fear twice already this year. I spoke briefly at the conference and appeared on BBC Sunday Politics Scotland.

I’ve spent quite a bit of time in that tricky state where I’m so nervous that I can’t quite tell whether I’m excited or nauseated.

We all have barriers to getting involved in causes we care about: busy schedules, work/family stress. Simply not knowing where to begin. Social anxiety can also play a big part in holding us back. You might wonder whether you have anything to contribute, whether you know enough or are really ‘humanist enough’ to get more active with HSS and whether people will be welcoming.

I can tell you that, based on my experience, you will be welcome at your local group, and you’ll learn a lot and also have fun. People have very kindly listened to what I’ve had to say and have embraced my and Caroline’s suggestions about reaching out more to children, students, young couples and families. For example HSS provided a pretty fantastic crèche at the conference this year, which enabled our whole family to attend.

I can report that our first Good Together event, a litter pick and social in May was a great success. The weather was lovely, parks were cleaned, and everyone agreed it was a fun and worthwhile way to spend the day. A highlight was attracting a family who wanted to join the litter pick. I invited them to have snacks afterwards with us, saying “We’re humanists, but you don’t have to be a humanist to come have a flapjack.”

“What’s a humanist?” asked the dad.

“A happy non-believer who wants to do good things.”

“Oh well, that’s us then!” he said cheerfully. “We’re humanists.”

I was so happy when they proceeded to join us for the rest of the morning. They were kindred spirits they simply didn’t know it yet. That’s really what the day was all about.

Image Courtesy: Maxwell GS, Creative Commons

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