A few days ago I had the pleasure of receiving an email from the executive director of the National Stuttering Association. For those of you out there who are people who stutter or speech therapists (and future ones too), I strongly insist you take the time to get to know her and the values she stands for. It can be almost impossible to measure someone's heart, but when the annual NSA conference grows to bring more people every year, so does her heart.
However, the email is different. The email was not written by her, but rather a person who stutters on the other side of the world. The NSA conference is rapidly becoming an international melting pot, and one of the pleasures I take from attending is not only to interact with attendees from different countries, but learn about their lifestyles and the customs. This past year, we had Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, and our absolutely breathtakingly inspiring keynote speaker from Sweden. A person e-mailed Tammy asking for their message to be forwarded to me, and it was. It was very amazing to read, and if you need proof that the NSA reaches all countries and touches us all, here it is.
This email was sent from Switzerland and was in response to my "A is for Attitude" article that was published in the "Letting Go" newsletter. My article is about struggling to find legal employment and having to be told by an attorney that my speech was the main reason why. The person who wrote to me is an attorney, who has been out of work since Jan. 1. What I found very interesting was his comment "I have faced hatred from very few people. You won't change these few by changing yourself, believe me. There are simply people that just won't hire us, period."
One of my favorite movies, "Batman Begins," has a quote from a scene where Bruce Wayne (before he develops the Batman persona) is confronting Carmine Falcone, a crime boss in the city. And Falcone says, "You always fear what you don't understand." And it's true, to an extent. We are reluctant to approach certain people, or maybe we avoid eating certain food because we are scared we won't like it." There are many people who don't understand stuttering, or just don't want to it, rather, they accept the media's portrayal of it. The Porky Pig example, Miley Cyrus making a reference to it in "See You Again," Michael Palin's character in "A Fish Called Wanda." But sometimes you can reach one person. One of the NSA support groups recently went out to dinner together and when the waitress tried to finish their sentences, the members spoke up and said something. I applaud that. All it takes is one example. Sure, maybe everyone won't notice. But to those who do see it, you stand out stronger.
Sometimes it's scary to not know what the future holds. After all, only one person claimed to know, and that's Nostradamus. I don't even know if he was even true, but as a person who stutters, I know what my future holds-unlimited promise. Hope springs eternal, after all. You don't have to wait for the week to end to decide to make a new goal, or commit to changing yourself. But whatever you decide to do, surround yourself with positive people and influences. I have never forgiven my parents for not being more accepting of my decision to go to Long Beach, Calif., but the results have spoken for themselves and it's still paying dividends. If it wasn't for some encouragement from NSA members and all my teammates (I don't like to say I have friends at the NSA, but rather teammates) I don't know where I'd be. No matter how small you think your world is, someone out there understands. My name is Steven Kaufman, and I am a person who stutters. Until next time, stand up and be counted, and make your voice heard.