Saturday, May 8, 2010

Hello everyone,

Throughout my life, I have often questioned many times why life takes the twists and turns it does. We all have struggled at times with many challenges that life has thrown at us: a new chapter starts and we are unsure what to do about it. A death in our family shatters our normalcy and things never stay the same again. Yet, as the saying goes, "The more things change, the more things stay the same." And what stays the same to me, as a member of the National Stuttering Association, is the unbreakable spirit that a group of collective individuals can agree to unite for something bigger than themselves, and learn about this unique world we live in.

For many travelers around the world, the shattering took place at our local airports. With a volcanic eruption spreading ash over Europe, there was a standstill of shock and then the craziness started. There was nowhere to go, very few people to talk to-or to care about their problems. I was reading the New York Post a few days ago at a diner counter and was shaking my head at some of the responses from those stranded when a reporter asked them how they were managing. One person said (paraphrasing) "We don't deserve to be treated like animals." Another one was angry that in search of a temporary room and shower, some hotels raised the prices every day in hopes one's will would be broken and they'd give in. Yet there are some who despite the most trying of circumstances, make it through the day with a smile and their courage. One family, who seemed amused by the fact that some passengers were photographing them like a paparazzi would celebrities, decided turnabout was fair play and thus photographed those who were photographing them. Some passengers, according to the Post, decided to engage a take-off of "Twenty Questions" in a parlor game supposedly called "I'm Not Beethoven." And one young girl was making some good friends with a French compatriot, even though she didn't know a lick about the language. It brought a smile to my face, knowing that just maybe the human spirit isn't dead as it seems like sometimes it can be.

But as a person who stutters (or even if you support others who do), we have more of those moments, and although we want to give up and declare our lives over, it is unfathomable. When I speak at colleges about the NSA Nation and the transforming effects it has, the one thing I stress is that we all live through each other. We laugh together, and we celebrate all that our speech is and can be. We also cry and empathize when someone's ordeal threatens to bring down all they worked for.One of my colleagues at the NSA who has contributed her blood, sweat, and tears as we all have, was recently given some devastating news. She is a very proud mom of two daughters, one who is an SLP and the other who will be a psychologist and serves in a leadership capacity in my organization. She is a big proponent of education, and found out that after twenty-something years, she was being let go because of budgetary issues in California. My heart dropped after I read that, and as someone who strongly believes that the NSA Nation takes care of its own, I asked her to call me, and we spoke for an hour. Despite this crippling news, she maintained her sunny outlook. Many of us wear their hearts on their sleeve (I do), and when we receive bad news, we tend to immediately feel those clenches of negativity permeate our mind. We begin to ask "Why me? Why couldn't this happen to someone else?" "I don't deserve this." We stew, we complain, we feel the color in our world dying. Yet she, not one time, did any of that. She is truly someone I admire, and the NSA Nation is full of members who feel the same way she does. It really is about attitude!

Maybe I will never find out why life is the way it is. But you know what I have found out? That life is meant to be lived with a smile on your face, and being comfortable with who you are is vital. Adversity really does build character-and I've got a great deal of it. Why don't you start building yours 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.