Good evening everyone,
It was a Wednesday night like any other night in Anytown, USA. Even though my remote control was waging a dueling battle between watching the state of Illinois and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania battle for Lord Stanley's Cup, I had to see what was happening in a certain baseball game between the Cleveland Indians and Detroit Tigers. One man, Armando Galarraga, was on the precipice of history. As Andy Warhol put it, we are all promised fifteen minutes of fame. And then, came one of those defining moments that show you just what kind of a person you really are when the world is watching. It was one groundout, just a routine play like which occurs several times in a baseball game. It only took two seconds for one umpire to incorrectly identify the call. And just like that, heartbreak was instantaneous.
Yet for all the criticism, the finger-pointing that was about to take place, there was just as much focus on the pitcher who smiled and said nothing. He could have screamed. He might have gotten right in the person's face and verbally berated them, and practically everyone in the universe would have echoed his sentiments. And even though the umpire apologized repeatedly and admitted he was wrong, there was absolutely nothing that could be done to ameliorate the situation. But above all else, it was the way he handled it.
As a person who stutters, I can say emphatically that for the longest time one of my greatest challenges was the ability to refrain from saying anything. I always had the need to get the last word in, to say what I wanted to. When you stutter, there is always going to be someone who refuses to hear you out. Maybe because they don't have time, or they just don't care. I have never let someone do that to me at all....but when it does happen, you only have a split second to decide what your next response will be. And that, above all else, says a great deal about who you are.
Stuttering for me has really made me examine my emotions in different ways. Being a chapter leader in the National Stuttering Association has shown me that even when you aren't in the public eye, you need to represent yourself the best way possible when it comes to your speech. I have never ever advocated using my stuttering as an excuse for anything, even when it comes to getting angry. I vividly remember in my days in junior high school, high school, and college, all it would take was just one remark about my speech to set me off. I was the grenade, someone who teased me pulled the pin, and now sit back and watch the explosion take place. How I wished back then that I had the self-control not to respond with anger.
Emotions are a big part of my life, and others who stutter because it brings out the best-and at times, the worst in us. We do not know what kind of a speech day we'll have. On the days when we need to be fluent, we may not be, and vice versa. It can drive you mad if you let it. But one of the themes that I stress when I lecture at schools is to make your emotions work for you, and not against you. Easier said than done, I'm sure.
As it turns out, the pitcher accepted the expressions of emotions from the umpire. Not because he had to do, but because it was the right thing to do. There will be some who'll say, "Well the fact that he got a Corvette made up for it." If you want to think that way, then you are certainly entitled to it.
The next time you're out, whether it is just with your friends or flying solo, think about your emotions and what they say about you. I lived too many years of my life being consumed by negativity, and I have made it my personal mission to help others work with controlling their feelings when it comes to stuttering. I promise that if you can do that, you will feel more spiritually alive than you ever thought possible.
My name is Steven Kaufman and I am a person who stutters. Until next time, stand up and be counted. Make your voice heard.