Thursday, April 23, 2009

A birthday wish.....learning to forgive and forget

Good evening everyone. I want to begin this edition of the blog with a quote from one of the more popular country songs I've heard: "Forgive sounds good...but forget, I'm not sure I could." For those who are not familiar, this is from "Not Ready To Make Nice" by the Dixie Chicks. I was actually playing this song in my head repeatedly as I turned 31 on April 21. I'm not much a fan of birthdays as I used to be. Don't get me wrong, family occasions are important to me, but because it's also a reminder of hurtful things I've done in the past, and it reminds me that I don't want to find myself saying things too late-when no one is around to hear them. Growing up in high school and college, I never had the ideal relationship with my parents. Then again, I do not know of any of my NSA teammates that might have. Some of the most painful experiences I have had were during that time in my life-when I would eat lunch in the nurse's office, for example, or choose to walk home by myself even though it was quicker to take the bus: I just felt so alienated and thinking that I had no right to be around other people who could talk better than I ever could. My escape from this self-induced prison as I'd like to call it was learning. Even if I could not volunteer in class due to the fact some teachers misunderstood stuttering, I'd learn as much as I could. I drew inspiration writing essays about books discussed in class, and how they'd parallel my life in so many ways. One of the song lines I think of is from "The Living Years" by Mike and the Mechanics (yes, I know I am old LOL-it's a big group from the eighties. The first line of the song states "Every generation blames the one before." My parents are probably going blame themselves because I stutter and I have been presented with a lot of challenges, like the ones I am going through now-but I know, and I have to believe, things will get better. Maybe I do have to work twice as hard as others, but I also know that I have found out just how strong my character is. But being a strong character has nothing to do with physical attributes. It's about learning how to forgive. It's about accepting that you can forget how you were wronged, as much as it may cut so deep, and look forward to the future. I know first hand how you can be so angry and have it destroy all you work for. I vividly remember reading Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein" and being haunted by it. When the scientist creates the so-called "monster," the creature tries so badly to belong to the community. But after being shunned and scorned, it comes to the creator and demands a companion. When the scientist refuses, the creature "vows to be with him on his wedding night" and take the most precious thing away from him, which he does. I felt like at times I wanted to take the gift of "fluent speech" away from those who teases me. But I know now that I have a gift, that was brought out by the NSA. I have a gift where I can impact other teammates and make a difference. I have a gift where I can share my love of the NSA with the world. And I have a gift...of a loud, outspoken voice that will never be silenced. To all those reading this, you can forgive. You can forget. You can learn there's another side to stuttering: a side with love, hope, and most importantly, confidence and pride. I stutter....and I am a fighter! And a forgiver. My name is Steven Kaufman and I am a person who stutters. Until next time, stand up and be counted. Make your voice heard.

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