He held on to the podium for balance as he felt unsteady. There was a whitewash of figures dressed in colours one could only get away with in First-World countries. They were waiting to hear the remainder of his speech. He shuffled his papers as he struggled to reclaim his voice. His voice was stuck behind the lump that developed just before he said “the final thing I want to say is..” He turned away in shame.
When he was a child, his father had left and his mother hated him. She told him as much. “You are an embarrassment, a shame to our family,” as she caught him under the tree in the backyard dancing with only a pair of tattered pants and a pink scarf he stole from the neighbour girl. “You will never be a man. You are a sinner, and you alone will go to hell.”
Yet, here he was, in a foreign country that stood for freedom in front of an audience waiting to hear what he had to say. If this was hell, he did not want to go back. He turned back around to face his audience, and something forced him to focus on a man with tears running down his cheeks. He was also wearing a pink scarf. Shame turned into courage.
“The final thing I want to say is, thank you for coming.”