Saturday, June 13, 2009

The choice to be angry or not is yours....what do you choose?

Good afternoon everyone,

Although I am recovering from the flu right now, I had to post regarding a tragedy that took place this past week at the U.S. Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC. James von Brunn, who was identified as a white supremacist, killed a security guard who opened the door for him, and if not for the quick thinking of two other officers, more visitors might have been injured. In the days after this horrific event, we learned how vitriolic this person's thoughts really were and how they had built up over time, leading to his violent rampage.

Having faced the challenges of stuttering all my life, I can say emphatically that there have been times where I have gotten angry. I am sure my NSA teammates have all felt this way at some points in their journey of self-acceptance. I matured late in life, and learned many lessons the hard way. I'd lash out at the rest of the world every time I had a block, whenever I was passed over by a teacher in high school I'd bang my hand on the desk and say "But I want to be heard!," which often the end result would be a written reprimand and/or detention. It would get much worse though-when there were parent-teacher conferences, my parents would often come home and I'd have to hear something to the effect of "Steven doesn't know how to control himself."

Anger often clouds our judgment and in an extreme, makes us say and do things to others we normally wouldn't do. But then there are those ultra-extreme situations, where someone can hate someone or something so much that the fabric of reasoning and rational thinking rips apart so easily-in essence, you become so desensitized that you don't care about anything anymore. You don't want to grow, you don't want to change, all you care about is feeding that anger until it consumes you. Then you don't recognize the person you've become...all you care about is making others feel the way you do. It's not fun at all. I know, I've been there. All my NSA teammates have felt the razor-sharp piercings of teasing, bullying, isolation from all they know. I often think back to the song "Iris" by the Goo Goo Dolls, from the movie "Ciy of Angels." There's one line that stands out that goes "I don't want the world to see me, because I don't think that they'd understand. When everything is made to be broken, I just want you to know who I am."

Yet despite the image that being angry carries a negative vibe, the truth is in many situations, if you apply the right type of positive thinking, and give that anger a voice and a purpose to help others, you can develop into a better teammate. Friday I was watching Oprah Winfrey briefly, and she was talking with John Walsh. Walsh, for many years, was the creator and host of "America's Most Wanted" on FOX-TV. He suffered through a tragedy no one should have to bear: his son, Adam, was kidnapped and eventually decapitated. For a long time, he struggled to identify the killer and after confirming his suspicions on who it was, Walsh gave his anger a voice: founding the Adam Walsh Child Resource Center, which merged with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. His work on TV has led to 1,000 criminals being arrested and removed from today's streets.

When I found out that I stuttered, I was angry in many ways. I was angry that I felt "shunned," and unable to enjoy social activities that many of us take for granted. But now more than ever, I have to say I am lucky I stutter. I learned how to take my anger and make it the best positive force in my life. I have the greatest teammates in the world who I love more than life itself. And there's the National Stuttering Association....which always has my heart.

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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