• Naheed Hanif

Toastmasters – 3rd Speech: Everybody’s Doing It

Here is the third speech, delivered just before Christmas 2013 and I am pleased to say, won the Best Speaker award.  More importantly, based (very loosely) on a personal story that was indeed a jolly one!

Note:  Various parts of this story have been embellished for the purpose of entertainment.   Keep in mind, some of it is completely made up, so don’t try this on your kids.

Purpose of the Speech


Somewhere, there is a community of people doing exactly the same and some are doing it for exactly the same reasons.

So what are you doing that you think is a strange habit that no one else is doing…?

The Speech


I remember appreciating how Christmas lights looked even more stunning when the snow has fallen.  The endless Christmas TV programs showing us warm feelings about how pleasant Christmas time is.  

We did not celebrate Christmas.  Our parents did not allow a single piece of tinsel in the house – in case the magical sparkles of the tinsel converts us to hard core Christians of some kind.

One day just before school was starting after the Christmas holidays, I told my brother I was dreading it.  Why?  Well because the teacher always asks everyone what they got for Christmas and when I try to explain that we don’t celebrate it….. They cannot understand and all of my friends and teachers feel sorry for me for days.

Even the bullies feet pity.

He said, that’s easy, don’t tell them.  Just make it up.  He told me about the various presents he claimed to have received and had gone all extravagant because it made him look good.  It created conversation and therefore more friends.

I really wasn’t sure, but thought…. Let’s give it a try.


The very twinkling they expressed interest – guilt set in like a big stone dragging me down.   The fear of being found out clung to me like a big teddy bear – but not in a nice way.

I even started thinking I need to get expelled to move to another school – it’s the only way to make sure I am never found out.

The turmoil was too much.  Then one day I disclosed this horrid secret to a friend, a Muslim friend, a very close family friend.  Her response was shocking.  She burst out laughing!  She was laughing so hard she was rolling around on the floor eventually running off to tell her brothers and some cousins that were there.

I was about to be humiliated …  Or was I?


It turned out that what they all found so funny was that I felt so bad about such a silly little white lie.  Apparently, it turned out; they were all doing exactly the same thing at school.  Each of them had imaginary presents too!

In fact, they spent their cosy warm Christmas days thinking up the best presents they could make up.

It was clear… Everybody’s Doing It!!

This became the norm in the coming years.  Every Christmas day, whilst the Christians and everyone else enjoyed opening up their Christmas presents, we would

Unbeknownst to our parents, their children were fast becoming trained liars.  Is it any wonder why they were so confused when they realised we are all so good at making stuff up.

As we grew older and entered the working world, we had our own money to use and hence enjoyed Christmas – outside of the home.

I still wondered what it would be like to have family time putting up the decorations and the absolute enjoyment of opening beautifully wrapped boxes that are presents … where you have absolutely no idea of what’s inside.

I really couldn’t care less what a present was, so long as I get to unwrap it, knowing whatever it is, it has been purchased and wrapped especially for me.

It wasn’t until about 17.5 years ago when I met a Catholic boy….. My soul mate; Stephen, that I truly had those ceremonial moments.  He would arrange putting up the Christmas decorations in his place only when I can be there so that I would get to enjoy it.  He also introduced me to the church so I could experience what Christmas meant to him.  This was difficult.  I reluctantly went to the church, feeling like an outcast, afraid that I would not be welcome, expecting to be thrown out (as would be the case in a mosque in those days) when I heard the preacher say:


My heart sank…immediately I looked at my Stephen and said “Did you tell him?”  He just smiled.  The preacher went on:

“…but have come to support family, friends or your spouse/partner…

Looking into the eyes of several people around him, directly referring to them…

.”…Thank you for coming, thank you for supporting friends and family here today.”

Oh my god!  I looked around and suddenly thought….is Everybody doing it!

It seems so!


During those years, Stephen’s brother also lived with him – he would witness some of this “childlike behaviour” and found it funny.  However, the number of presents we got for each other was kept secret because we thought the brother is already laughing at us, what would he say if he realised we buy each other a big present and then about 18 other ones just to unwrap?!

Stephen and I would open a present or two just as it hit midnight on Christmas Eve, or at whatever time of night after the brother had gone to bed.  Sometimes we would sneak the presents into the bedroom so that we could open them there- in secret.

Then one Christmas Eve, the brother was going to be out at a his sister’s house for the entire evening – so we thought we could actually open the presents in the living room and roll around in the wrappers laughing, singing as we do without having to hide in the bedroom.  And so we did.

Except….. The brother came home early….

There we were, in our Christmas pyjamas, a little drunk, and the living room a complete mess with wrapping paper everywhere and Christmas music still going strong.

We had been caught.  I try not to think about how embarrassed I felt.

The next day, its Christmas dinner at the sisters’ house with her family.  Then came the time for handing out the presents and all getting to unwrap them.

It was then the story came out.  The brother enjoyed telling everyone how we had behaved the previous night.


Then she even showed me the already filled bag full of wrapping paper and bottles from the night before.  She couldn’t see what was unusual about it.

The grassing up had back fired!  Because, once again…. It seems….at Christmas Time, Everybody is doing it!!!!

These are just 3 stories but one in each decade of my life – shows how long one can go thinking they are alone when in fact – Everybody is doing it!

So, what are you doing that perhaps you think you are alone in doing?

Related articles

  1. Life is Built On Moments (northcountytoastmasters.org)

  2. Toastmasters – A Beginner at Work (naheedhanif.wordpress.com)

  3. 11th meeting of Toastmasters 28/11/2013 (uobtoastmasters.wordpress.com)

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©2020 by Naheed Hanif.