Good evening everyone,
The great thing about inspiration is that you never know where it will come from. You can be out walking around the neighborhood and all of a sudden, you have that blast of hidden brilliance that reveals itself. Or in my case, it happened to come at 6:02 p.m., as I was intently watching the New Jersey Devils pregame show before they were scheduled to take on their bitter archrivals, the Philadelphia Flyers, at the Wachovia Center. Stan Fischler, the renowned NHL columnist and commentator, was chatting with retired defenseman Ken Daneyko, and "Dano" as he is affectionately known by his colleagues, said these words that immediately jumped out at me: "Initiate. Don't retaliate."
I think it's safe to say that as a person who stutters, we've all experienced a burning desire at one time to get even with someone who teased and bullied us. And when you begin to get consumed by that, you slowly realize that it takes over your whole life and you eventually begin to see things in this way: the only thing that matters is making this person feel the hurt you have to go through. It's such a toxic way of thinking and the consequences far outweigh any short-term pleasant feeling you'll have.
It always seems like there's another challenge we have to face: Someone says we can't do something, a person doesn't want to call you for a job because the position requires "good oral communication skills" and right off the bat your resume shows you stutter, and you're eliminated. If you want to create positive change in your life, follow these words: "Initiate. Don't retaliate."
I couldn't help but think about this as I flashed back to something that took place a few days ago. I am looking to get out and date, and at one time I had an account on the http://www.match.com website. (It's no longer active). There was an advertisement from a woman who piqued my interest, so I wrote to her, and then three days later, this was the response I received: "You should learn how to play for the other team, because no woman will want to go out with a guy who stutters." I have heard so many things over the course of my life: "Spit it out, I don't have time," "Hey, it's Porky Pig!," but I was truly astounded at the depth of ignorance that remark showed.
Now when faced with that situation, how does one decide what to do? Well, let's weigh both sides of the equation here. If I wanted to retaliate, I could have easily written her back and cursed her out. I could have written her a whole essay about the great things that people who stutter have done currently and throughout our great history. But retaliation to me wasn't an option at all. I have come a long way in my life and I no longer want to be the person who loses it at the drop of a hat. I was that throughout high school and college, and those who took pleasure in teasing knew that I would give them a reaction. I decided to initiate, and take a new course of action. I firmly resolved to dedicate myself even more to speech therapy than I do currently, because I need to stay on top of my speech and that gives me great pride when I can do so.
It really doesn't take much to initiate changes in your life. No matter what the circumstances are, every day is another chance to start over. As an advocate for people who stutter, I never forget that each day can bring something new to make my life more enjoyable- a chance to help others and make them know that when you stutter, it doesn't have to mean a death sentence. Far from it.....it means the start of a special journey. Make sure you find out about the National Stuttering Association (http://www.westutter.org) and start today.
My name is Steven Kaufman and I am a person who stutters. Until next time, stand up and be counted. Make your voice heard.