Last week I spoke to the Sertoma Club in Springfield, Mo. Sertoma, which stands for Service to Mankind, is made up of 40 to 50 individuals who work to help boys and girls clubs of the area, and they were surprised to hear that I have a ranch for underprivileged kids where they can come and stay free for a week or a weekend. Several of those men work with groups of children and vowed to use our place this summer.
I’ve done a lot of public speaking over the years, at places as magnificent as cathedrals, and spots as humble as little grade scools. I’ve spoken at any number of wild game dinners, ducks unlimited banquets, at various kinds of conventions and sport shows.
It is easy for me. I have done it so often that I never prepare a speech or talk; I just try to add some humor to what I have to say, with a few minutes of seriousness about whatever I feel God wants me to say. Groups vary, so you have to adapt to each situation.
A few years back, I was asked to come to a town on the northeastern border of Missouri and speak to a church.
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When I got there it was a giant cathedral that I absolutely was in awe of. I had never even been in such a place. My wife, Gloria, and I were asked to speak in Plano, Texas at a community building filled with people. I spoke for 40 minutes and signed books for more than an hour. They provided a place to stay and gave us a pair of beautiful matching jackets. I would have driven the whole distance just for those jackets.
I spoke to a convention in Hot Springs, Ark., a few years back that was in the Arlington Hotel, and they put us up in a room right across from the room where Al Capone always stayed when he came there. The room was just as it had been back then, set aside as something of a museum site. I never did find out what that convention was all about, but they paid me well.
About five or six years ago, after the publication of my book on duck-hunting experiences, I was asked to speak at a Ducks Unlimited Banquet in Oklahoma City. I should have known, from what they were paying, that this would not be like speaking to DU banquets in small towns of the Ozarks. Gloria and I got there the day before and they had us staying in one of the fanciest apartments I have ever seen. At that dinner, there were about 200 members of the wealthiest people I have ever seen, all in expensive suits and ties. Imagine how I felt that night, walking out before them in boots and jeans and a new $10 sports shirt purchased from a discount store.
I mainly want churches, schools, and civic groups to know that I will speak at any time, any place to any size group, especially if they are trying to raise money.
Speaking at a church in Kansas one summer, I helped raise enough money to buy more than 100 pairs of shoes for Indian children on a couple of reservations in Kansas and Nebraska. Around 10 years ago, I spoke at a Baptist church in Missouri, and that night, we raised $981, which was spent to buy coats for poor kids in the county.
Those are the reasons I will go anywhere, anytime, and speak to any group. I enjoy it, and it is easy for me to do it.
I’ll end this with a story about a handful of Baptist ministers who got the idea to have a big outdoor sportsmen dinner to try to bring in men of the area, hopeful they would start coming to one of the churches in the area. They would have a free wild game dinner, give away tickets for a drawing that furnished all kinds of hunting and fishing equipment, and in particular a nice $500 shotgun. I was to speak at the event.
It was cold that night, and the wild game, cooked and served outside, was just as cold when folks lined up to eat. Then they packed the church, and a group of musicians performed, then a minister talked for a while and they announced that after I spoke they would have the drawing. At that time it was a past 11 p.m. Those men were really restless and they didn’t care about listening to me.
I help my talk to about three minutes and then the drawing took about another hour. The preachers and others involved in putting on the event all had purchased tickets for the cause.
And who won the big prizes? One of the minister’s sons won a set of books I had donated. One of the ministers won a $50 Bass Pro Shops gift certificate and another one ended up holding the ticket for the shotgun.
My guess is that maybe not many of those folks who came that night ended up joining any of those preachers at Sunday services.