Good afternoon everyone,
There's a very famous piece of written composition called "Everything I Learned, I Learned In Kindergarten." I thought I'd use that as the basis for this posting, but slightly tweaked. I didn't learn everything in kindergarten, and I probably won't learn everything until I leave this earth-and by then, there will be much more still to observe. But for me, everything I have learned about stuttering and my life I actually learned from....the hospitality business.
At different points in my life, I have worked in the catering/restaurant business. It's no secret that there are very few "lifers" in that business, simply because a lack of patience and frustration will doom you if you don't have the necessary "people gene." Either one has it, or they don't. I've worked at opposite ends of the spectrum: from luxury catering at a prestigious multi-purpose hall to working behind the counter preparing food. And I like to think there are many parallels between stuttering and this field, as I am sure there are many others. On the refrigerator where I currently work, there was a letter from an owner of another franchise store (same type as I work at) and one day on my down time, I read it. If you take the time to analyze it, there are many connections to draw. Here's but a few things he said, and how I feel about it:
1. "It's not about you, it's about the customer."-Well, it's not about me in any way at all. It's about the National Stuttering Association and contributing in any way I can to make it better. When you work in the restaurant field, you are the ambassador and representative for that place where customers choose to eat. A customer can spend money anywhere they want to-and in this economy, it's very important to choose a place where they feel acknowledged. When I contribute to the NSA in many forms, I want others to know that I represent them and I take equal ownership and treat it as if it were my own, because it is. I used to work at the Huntington Townhouse as a lobby host, assisting the maitre d's whenever I was needed to do so, and making sure everyone left with a great impression of Long Island. Yes, we had many visitors who'd never been to the NYC area and didn't know anything about it. I know that as a single person I can have a big say as to how their time goes. When you know you can make a difference, it's a special feeling. Sure, it was nice to get to wear a tuxedo to work LOL, but still......you can represent yourself to the fullest. If you show stuttering never stops you in any way, others will agree with you and go along happily.
2. "If you see someone without a smile, give them one of yours."-For the longest time I would never even want to smile because I felt so ashamed and embarrassed by my stutter. Even the simplest tasks I would do just featured a sarcastic edge whenever I spoke. You have a choice: you can smile and accept the fact that you stutter and it's one part of your life, and be confident about it, or you can be angry and complain about it. I have dealt with customers who could care less about what they are doing at that moment, but I like to smile and do it when I can. There is nothing to apologize for when it comes to stuttering. I stutter, and I smile....why don't you?
My name is Steven Kaufman and I am a person who stutters. Until next time, stand up and be counted. Make your voice heard.