I have a speech impediment. I’ve been a stutterer for at least 35 years. (I say it that way because I don’t remember exactly when it started. However, the earliest memory I have of it is in the fourth grade.)
You may have known me for quite a long time and not known about it. Most of the time—really, nearly always—I have no problem with it. A speech pathologist in Anniston named Elizabeth Yarbrough helped me tremendously. (A casual Binging indicates she’s still around and practicing. Perhaps I’ll look her up. Send a thank-you note, anyway.)
Sometimes my stutter recurs when I’m tired. More reliably, it recurs when I have to say something exactly.
For example, sometimes I stutter saying “Hello?” when I answer the telephone, because you pretty much have to say that. Another time I’ve had a bit of trouble in the past is reading in church, which I’m occasionally asked to do. I read from a paper in my hand, but the congregation reads along on the screen behind me. So my opportunities for improvisation are rather limited.
I read this morning from Matthew 18—specifically, the parable of the unforgiving servant. I stuttered only once. It was quite brief—well under one second—and I’m certain no one noticed but me.
A few minutes later I went out to refill my coffee and one of the guitar players in the praise band asked if he could talk to me. He said I had blessed him and his son and I never realized it.
When I asked him how, he told me he and his son had been present several years ago when I’d had a lot more trouble reading in church. (When it happens, there’s nothing to do but work through it as best I can. Stressing about it makes it much worse.) I’m sure I smiled through it, offered a brief apology, and continued.
He told me his son has trouble with his speech sometimes, and that I had been really encouraging to him just getting up and speaking like that, knowing what might happen.
Now I’d still rather not have the problem at all. Once in a great while it really bothers me. Last year I was promoting this event in a radio interview and stuttered fairly severely, to the point that the DJ had to cover for me. It was all really quick and a much bigger deal in my head than it was in actuality. Still, you know?
But I felt wonderful this morning learning that I’d helped a young man get a little further in making his peace with such a torment. My friend, you certainly blessed me right back telling me about it. Thank you.