Good evening everyone,
One of the greatest attributes that the NSA conference offers is the chance to not just interact with teammates in a positive environment, but the continued chance to do so year-round through social networking sites. While the conference physically takes four days, it’s undeniable that the power, passion, and purpose (try saying that three times fast!) goes on 24/7/365. Stuttering knows no offseason, and neither does our resolve.
Recently I posted a message about how life really is beautiful when you stutter, and I received an interesting response from one of my teammates. This teammate attended the conference in North Jersey 2008, but was not able to make it to Arizona for this year. Last year, he was what we call a “first-timer” (we all were at one time), and he too, was swept up in the infectious enthusiasm and joy of becoming an NSA teammate-learning that he is not alone, and having the time of his life, learning and celebrating all that stuttering is and what it will be: we laugh, we cry, we share as one.
The response that I received was one of whether stuttering is a gift or a curse, which is one of the frequently asked questions amongst NSA teammates. For those who understand it, and who have persevered despite the innumerable setbacks we’ve had, you may understand why they feel like it is a gift, like I do. However, at the opposite end of the spectrum, there is extreme anger at being a teammate who stutters. Anger and hatred, of one’s self, of the world they see and have become accustomed to. It is because of this world that in his/her eyes, a new world is created: where love is lost, darkness envelops the light, and all hope for transforming their life is gone. This response ended with “Unfortunately, we all can’t be as positive as you are, Steven.”
Although I am very proud and open with the fact that I stutter, I relate very well to these sentiments that this teammate is thinking, because I was him. On some days, I do echo those sentiments. Open up the newspaper on a given day, and we see evidence the world is going down the toilet: another company is laying people off and cutting jobs. The fingers are pointed everywhere except at those who are responsible. I face great challenges, we all do. I am looking for full-time work and yet I too struggle at interviews, and in social situations. I do not know how to explain this, but I have made great strides socially and for that, I am forever indebted to the sole reason why that has happened, the NSA. I love going up to teammates of all diverse age and backgrounds and talking with them, learning about their passions and their lives-what their hopes and dreams are.
I also understand that each teammate of mine is at different points on their journey of self-acceptance as a person who stutters. For some teammates, coming to this conference was a major step in embracing who they are, and finding out they need not have to fear their stuttering. For others, they are hurting and scared. My advice to them is there is nothing to fear. The NSA stands up for all.
I recently went to the movies, and found a quote from a trailer that could very well sum up the NSA perfectly. Paramount Pictures is releasing a version “G.I. Joe” later this summer, and one of the characters says “When all else fails, we don’t.” The NSA will never fail to take care of their own-because we take care of each other.
My name is Steven Kaufman and I am a person who stutters. Until next time, stand up and be counted. Make your voice heard.