The Applause of Silence by Stephen Kissell

I would like to share a story of travel, drama, and reward. It all began with a telephone call from a funeral home chain in Arkansas. I was engaged to speak at a banquet in the bustling city of Little Rock. It was to be an appreciation banquet held, coincidentally, on Valentines Day... how sweet. En route an amusing thought occurred. They would not be so funny as to pick me up in a hearse would they? No, they wouldn't dare, that would be too obvious an idea.

At the end of the jet way stood a man dressed as a caretaker. He was holding a sign up in the air with the words "STEVE KISSELL." I took him by surprise when I help up my sign that said "I AM STEVE KISSELL." It was an attempt to overcome my nervousness about meeting a funeral home director professionally, though we were not dealing with his profession, but with mine.

We stepped out to the curb and there it was, jet black with shiny chrome and beige curtains filling the back windows of the full length hearse. I didn't believe it, and I told him so. "No way," I said. I am not riding in that hearse. He then said to me, "Ain't you that funny man? Get in the back!" I told him I would...but that there was no way that I was going to lie down!

The room was beautifully decorated for the occasion. The plan for the program was dinner, evening introductions, and then twenty minutes of me, followed by awards, and finishing with an additional ten minutes from me.

I was introduced. After the first several minutes I noticed a distraction out of the corner of my eye. Why do we say "corner" of the eye? I think it should be "out of the 'cornea' of my eye." Anyway, I glanced over and noticed a gentleman with his back to me making hand gestures to a young woman facing me. They were intent on watching him and me at the same time. You guessed it, he was interpreting. My first thought was, "cool...they would be able to enjoy the evenings program as well as the others." Then a second thought occurred to me. Much of my humor depends on facial expressions, timed with the delivery of a word or phrase. Would these folks be able to receive this form of communication from the interpreter? My worries were over when approximately half way into the presentation I was rewarded with the vision of two lovers wiping their eyes with handkerchiefs and banging their hands on the table with laughter. I paused momentarily as my heart sang with joy at their reaction. I was truly blessed that evening to receive a reaction louder than any standing ovation that I've ever had. This is what platform speaking is all about!