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.
Parable of the Wicked Servant, ca. 1620, by Domenico Fetti (1588-1623)
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.