Good afternoon everyone,
One of the greatest pleasures I have had the chance to experience is special times when I can get together with my NSA colleagues outside of our annual conferences. I used to think of my fellow NSA members as "teammates," but in many ways, we are more than that. We're teachers, advocates, and friends with unbreakable bonds that no one else can even begin to understand.
This past Saturday, I had a chance to get together with one of my friends from the conference. In all honesty, I didn't even know he was going to be in my "neck of the woods," as the proverbial expression goes. I firmly believe that when the opportunity presents itself, you need to make an effort to reach out and offer to get together-even if it's for dinner or just having drinks at the local bar. My friend was in town for a month to attend an intensive speech therapy program, and it was only via his Facebook page that I found out. I emailed him, and we decided to hang out in New York City. Any time I go into the city, it's a special thing for me. I am a typical suburbanite-whenever someone asks me where I am from, I always say "Long Island" rather than New York. Although sometimes I take it for granted that I can easily have access to the amenities that this city offers me, I'm not usually much for being there. I love the beaches and the much slower pace of life, although when I am in the city, it's usually a good bet you'll find me behind the microphone at a karaoke bar.
I met my friend and our first stop was riding the D line up to the Yankee Stadium/161st Street/River Avenue stop, so we could walk around the stadium. And as we were doing so on what was a glorious day, the topic of conversation turned to one of the themes that usually rears its head throughout our lives, and especially at the conference. And that's the one about taking chances. Matt was telling me how he just completed his Associate's Degree and was deciding on whether or not to go for his Bachelor's degree, or take the entrance exam to be a New York City Police Officer. We happened to be walking past Mullally Park right by the Stadium, approaching the George Washington Bridge exit, and I encouraged him to go for it-especially since the city is always recruiting for police officers. But Matt spoke about how he was worried how his speech might come into play-because it's one thing to be comfortable around another person who stutters, and it's totally different when you need to be in the public eye.
It is no secret that I take so much pride in knowing so many members of the NSA Nation, who have pursued (and are pursuing) their goals in spite of their concerns they may have. Whether it's a teacher or a speech pathologist. One of the articles in our "Letting GO" newsletter was written by a mother of our members who expressed her concerns when her daughter wanted to become a speech pathologist and she had to say her name to other graduate students.
After we hit the Stadium, we did some subway-hopping and walked over the Brooklyn Bridge from Manhattan to the DUMBO (Down Underneath the Manhattan Bridge) with a truly priceless view of the skyline and Statue of Liberty. But another attribute of the National Stuttering Association is that no one cares what your background is or what personal beliefs you have-we all come from various regions-the Northeast, the Florida beaches (like Matt), the Pacific Northwest, and so on. On the bridge, there was a great collection of residents and visitors just being. Just talking, and no one cared about their personal issues.
As we were walking back to the Manhattan side, I couldn't help but pause to see where the Twin Towers once stood. The only thing that was going through my mind was the song "No Day But Today," from the musical "Rent." We all have so much to accomplish, so much to dream, and time to make it happen. Matt pledged to me he will strongly consider taking the exam. No matter what he decides, just the fact that two members of the NSA Nation were able to get together made it a pretty good weekend....don't you think?
My name is Steven Kaufman and I am a person who stutters. Until next time, stand up and be counted. Make your voice heard.