Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to describe your stuttering experiences in one word....Go!

Hello everyone,

We all have different routines that take place after work. For some of us, we're the first out the door when our workday is over. Others may spend a few minutes checking their BlackBerry or other PDA while juggling a conversation about what will be on the dinner table. The last few weeks, whenever I leave work, I've found myself listening to "Intelligence For Your Life," otherwise known as The John Tesh Radio Show. Syndicated from Los Angeles, and airing here on WKJY/98.3, the show (as well as his web site, http://www.tesh.com) offer valuable tips and great suggestions on all kinds of topics with every type of situation you can think of.

As I was perusing the site yesterday, I came across a phrase that stuck in my mind for a few hours: "The Great Humbling." According to career coach Judith Gerberg, who was cited in the article, there's been a drastic increase in unemployment among college-educated men 35-64, almost double what it was before the recession took place. Now, there seems to be a great shift in attitude, which is going a long way toward helping others find a good position.

I often ask myself how I can describe the experiences of being a person who stutters with one word. Many times when I have spoken to graduate students I am asked various questions, but never in that form. I think it is one of the most difficult things to try and answer something with one word. But if you pin me down and ask that of me, I would say "Stuttering has made me humble."

I've met many people who stutter and while the National Stuttering Association's conference has been viewed as the first day of the rest of your lives (which is emphatically 100 percent true), I think the world humble has shown me a lot because of the work I have done. First, being humble means knowing (and accepting) that it is not about you. Period. This is a lesson that I think unfortunately some people still have not mastered. I am 33 years of age, and it took me into my late twenties to finally understand it. When I was in high school, there may have been times when I wanted an extension on a paper-and granted, some teachers gave it because they felt a student deserved a second chance, etc. I feel that I often excelled in classes where the instructor was a disciplinarian-tough, but fair. While some other students may have been cursing under their breath, I actually relished the chance to sit up front and learn their styles, and the way they taught their classes. I'm the first person who will come forward to congratulate someone on their award if they are presented, and offer my compliments when someone has something wonderful happen to them-receiving a scholarship, being engaged, and so on. If you can't give of yourself to at least say "Congratulations," that's not an attractive quality. It's not fun being a killjoy and making others feel bad. I was that person for a long time. I don't want to ever become him again.

Being humble also means accepting that sometimes you will make mistakes and learn from them. One of the lessons I have stated in my seminars was something my late grandfather taught me: "The only perfect people are dead people. Because they do not have any problems." There's nothing wrong with setting high standards and wanting to achieve them. But if we make an error on the way to that platform, that too is OK. It can be saying something hurtful, breaking a promise to someone. If the executive director of the NSA asks me to do something, my word is my bond. If for some reason I am unable to do it, I will acknowledge my mistake and how to make it right.

Even more than the things I have described, being humble to me also means learning to accept others as they are and knowing you can try to help-even if the other person doesn't want it or can't see the reasons why. I have a good friend named "Johnny" who I grew up with in high school. "Johnny" is my age, 33, but he also has severe learning disabilities that make itvery hard, if not impossible, for him to hold down a job-in fact, his parents made him file for Social Security feeling that his disability will prevent him from any meaningful work. I've often asked myself why he is who he is, and why I am the way I am. We both have our challenges and work the best we can to overcome them. Maybe the rest of the world won't accept him the way he is. But just by listening, offering a supporting hand, that's being humble. Offering to take him out for an occasional dinner at the local diner can be a special gesture that can mean the world to him.

Yes, maybe that's a great word to describe my experiences: Humble. I was humble when I accepted my awards for Volunteer of the Year and Member of the Year and making sure that everyone is owed a part of it. My fellow NSAers make me humble. And I've never been more proud to say that, and always remember the current future lessons they will share with me.

My name is Steven Kaufman, and I am a person who stutters. Until next time, stand up and be counted. Make your voice heard.

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