The message of a motivational speaker can carry the energy to provoke deep emotions. Although in most cases, I see inspiration in the eyes and reaction of the audience. On few occasions, however, when it hits closer to home, the experience can be a painful reminder of the obstacles one must endure to simply survive.
I recently gave a motivational presentation to a school district in northern California. I was asked to do an all school assembly on gang awareness and drug prevention. The audience was high school student’s grades 9-12. Although I was received well, there was a young man who apparently was having a difficult time with my message. I noticed him part way through, as his facial expressions were that of resistance if not defiance. I have learned to handle such behavior in a way that calls for mutual respect. But at this moment, I could not succeed. It grew more and more difficult to reach him.
After the presentation, a teacher who had noticed his behavior, escorted the young man to the stage with the expectation that he should apologize. He stood in front of me unable to look me in the eyes. I could see that he was uncomfortable. I began to talk since I was concerned that he may be missing the point of my message. He interrupted, “You don’t understand.” He blurted. “They expect me to sit hear and listen to you disrespect my homeboys”. “They expect me to say nothing. You don’t understand.”
My presentation struck a cord that ran deep making it impossible for him to hold back his emotions. I listened as he described his life in the barrio and how he could not simply turn his back on his friends or his family. I could hear the pain in his voice. I could see his frustration. As he was escorted out, his words resonated in my thought “you don’t understand”.
How I wish this were true.