It was Mental Health Awareness Day, and it’s an issue I care deeply about; so I figured what’s the harm.
I didn’t know how to write a speech, and I didn’t think it would be proper to be reading off a teleprompter.
I decided I’d just talk, and speak about my past experience and how I dealt with Depression and Panic Disorder.
The conversation was going fine, until I mentioned of what my father once told me when I was 20 years of age and full of hatred.
He told me, “I needed to learn to how to forgive, if not for the sake of others, for the sake of my own health. Hatred was building anger, and anger was bleeding out; driving me down deeper into my depression”.
So as it goes, I shared this story of forgiveness and mentioned how I ran into an old bully of mine and learnt how good it felt to finally forgive and let bygones be bygones.
Dealing with a bully — An unlikely encounter.
I haven’t gotten my car washed in a while, and my parents have been complaining about how I need to around to get the…
This was a diverse crowd, and I felt quite comfortable speaking…
Twenty minutes had gone by and I was to leave the stage in the next ten, as I’m about to wrap up my story; a gentleman in the crowd yelled out,
“Get off the stage, you fucking rag-head”, which caught me off-guard.
I didn’t have a rag on, it was confusing, I’ve got a black suit on.
The crowd starts booing the poor fella who was deeply confused, and the last thing I want to do is promote bullying at a Mental Health discussion.
So I did what I could, I pleaded that the crowd not boo the gentleman and let him speak his mind.
I asked him, of what I said that had offended him…
He yelled out, “Go fuck your forgiving rag-head father, he’ll forgive you won’t he? You terrorist prick…”
I thought to myself, ahh now I see…
The gentleman thinks I’m a incestuous homosexual terrorist.
I asked if he’d like to come up on stage, he declined.
I thought, seems fair.
“Would you like me to step off and come speak with you?”, the gentleman declined my offer and told me to stop invading his country.
I thought, seems fair — “I’m not here to invade your country, Sir. I live back in Pakistan, with my rag-head father”.
Anyways, my ten remaining minutes were up and nothing meaningful came of it, but I figured why not give it a chance; maybe go talk to this gentleman in private.
I approached him, we sat down — his face was still red from all the shouting.
“So what seems to the problem here, what did I do that made you angry?”
“You come here, you talk about forgiveness. Look what your people are doing to our country (Australia).”
“I understand, it’s not nice. Your culture is under-threat because of immigration. I can see that.”
“Well…then why don’t you do something about it?”
“I live in Pakistan, we’re pretty modern over there. Umm…but I’m open to suggestions. How can I help?”
“…Tell your pals to stop invading our country.”
“Well I can’t preach to your government, but I can surely write about it. I’ve talked about assimilation before in my writing. Sadly, I’m just a guy…who is going to listen to me.”
“Fuck off then, mate…”
“I will in a bit, but I’ve got a few more minutes to spare. Help me figure this out, I never mentioned religion in speech, Did I?”
“…you mentioned your father.”
“Yes, but I didn’t say his teaching came from my religion. I said my father was kind enough to teach me not be hateful because it would destroy me. That was the story…I never said it came from religion. Why I would enforce such an opinion on a diverse crowd?”
“So you deal with depression, your father taught you to be forgiving. How can we forgive what’s happening here?”
“I’m not asking you to, I was sharing my experience. Here’s a photograph of my dad, look he wears a suit just like me. He’s no rag-head. I don’t know what that is.”
“I’m just frustrated, mate, you know?”
“I understand, who wouldn’t be. We expect foreigners to follow our laws when they visit our country so why should it be any different when Muslims visit yours.”
“Yeah…see you get it now.”
“I do…yes. So what’s happened to you personally that made you yell out at me? I get anxious, see…my hands are still shaking. I’ll probably need to take extra medication today.”
“Well, mate, I’m just frustrated. And that’s that…”
“Sure…but I’m not here to talk about immigration. I’m here to talk about mental health. I’m no specialist in immigration. Nor do I hold such a position. I can only speak from my own experience, like you can from yours.”
“Yeah, well…you’re no rag-head, mate. I was angry, okay?”
“It’s okay to be angry, it’s a human emotion. You got it out of your system, I wasn’t offended. It’s fine.”
“So that’s it, you’re fine with it?”
“Yeah I’m fine. I know who I am, I know who my father is…why would I be offended by a stranger shouting at me. Have you ever seen the movie Good Will Hunting?”
“Yeah I have…Robin Williams.”
“Yeah…and Matt Damon, he wrote that movie. Won an Oscar for writing it with his mate Ben Affleck. Dropped out of Harvard to do that. Took a big risk didn’t he?”
“Yeah well it paid off for him.”
“I guess it did…so you think I’d know the first thing about you because I read Oliver’s Twist?” (A reference to the film)
“I guess not…hey.”
“So we make peace then?”
“Yeah, mate, you’re alright…”
We shared a smile and a hand shake. I departed for my flight, leaving him my email address if he ever needed to get in touch.
I can’t change the world, or the people I encounter — I can only control my reaction to the situations I find myself in.
It could’ve gone a lot differently if I got security to kick him out, encouraged the crowd to boo him off, but what good would that have done?
He would’ve hated this rag-head even more for it.
At least I left him with a little less hatred, helped him vent, and I’m happier for it.
My skin isn’t that thin that I’d be ripped apart because he hurled a few words at me.
The world isn’t comfortable, nor is every situation I’ll find myself in.
I just need to control my reaction and try to understand the situation.
Not undermine some one.
I learnt he was just confused and angry, it’s his right to be.
As much as he has the right to shout at me, because why not?
It was an open event, and suppressing his reaction would’ve let to no good.
At least I left with a sense that maybe, just maybe — I’d helped another person out.