Good morning everyone. It's slightly after 1 a.m. here on the East Coast, and like most of the world, today was focused on St. Patrick's Day. I always like to think that March, along with July, October, November, December and January has a special bond because of one thought that crosses all party lines-it's about luck. St. Patrick's Day has always been about that...the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, or maybe kicking back with a few friends sharing in some brews. But today, I want to share with you a story about what it means to be Lucky. First, I am issuing a disclaimer. This does not refer to getting "lucky" in the sense that one thinks it does (yes, I know there are some with dirty minds LOL), nor does it refer to a song by Britney Spears. This is all about seeing yourself as lucky....because you stutter and you are part of an unbelievable community.
Now hold on a second, some of you may have read that and wondered "Huh? What is he talking about?" Well, allow me to explain. As the precious few seconds of the semi-formal banquet ticked away at last year's conference in North Jersey, I became flooded with emotions. I make no apologies for wearing my heart on my sleeve, I am raw and honest with my stuttering. The conference in North Jersey, as far as I am concerned, was the most pivotal moment in my life. I was sharing it with a fellow NSA teammate and chapter leader from the West Coast, and we were just chatting, and she said "Do you realize now lucky you are to be part of this community? A lot of people don't have that." And for the first time, I couldn't hold it anymore. I broke down and started to cry...somewhat because the conference was ending, but because I realize how lucky I really am in this world.
So what makes a person lucky? A special coin? A rabbit's foot? None of the above. What makes you lucky is a belief that you are somebody. You are a person who has all the untapped potential to make things happen. In many ways, to accept that I am a person who stutters has been the luckiest thing in my life. It's done so many things for me: It's introduced me to the NSA and my teammates who I love more than life itself. It's shown me that I can take charge of my speech and dictate how I want to speak. It's shown me that I can speak in public and share this truly amazing gift with others.
Of course my NSA teammates also have stories of struggles too. Stories about wanting to approach a member of the opposite sex, only to have the words fumble around and end up with egg on their face. Stories about job interviews and only imagining what the interviewer is thinking as they express themselves. We are lucky to have such an environment where we can be free with each other. Some people spend their whole lives trying to find that one place to run to. Even though the conference takes up four days of the calendar year, in many ways, it goes on year round, through each teammate's eyes. Yes, we may be there physically in one place for that time. But we're never really alone.
I remember vividly as if it was yesterday receiving an award at the awards banquet in New Jersey, for Volunteer of the Year. I am fiercely proud of that achievement. But I never forget my teammates and how lucky they are that I share their hopes, their dreams. Their successes are mine, and vice versa. I think back to how on July 4, 1939, Lou Gehrig made his famous "Today I consider myself...." speech. I am the luckiest man on the earth. And even on my worse days, I know it's true.
I want to close with a special message..to all those around the world who are reading my blog and leaving me comments, I want you to know how truly grateful I am for your viewpoints. The stuttering community is getting stronger, our voices are getting louder. We are all so very lucky. If you're not a member of the National Stuttering Association, please become one. We're all teammates.
My name is Steven Kaufman and I am a person who stutters. Until next time, stand up and be counted. Make your voice heard.