If I were to name any disability in existence today, most of us would immediately draw a picture in our minds of what that disability looks like. Some of us would even think of that special loved one who inspires us with his courage and tenacity. But very few people-if any at all-would ever dream of belittling that disability. When we see someone fighting a battle with disease or disability, our first instinct is to show as much support and compassion as we possibly can. However, my heart breaks for the thousands of people around the world fighting invisible battles, disabilities that others can’t readily see. For this reason, they are often disregarded by people who just don’t understand. Right now, I’m thinking about the 70 million people worldwide who stutter…the 70 million brave people who struggle to even tell someone their name, yet are still confronted with the resounding question: “Well, how bad can it possibly be?”
When I think about stuttering, I think about someone sitting in a restaurant booth trying to calm his shaking hands, anxiously waiting for his turn to order. While his mind creates the most eloquent order in the world, his voice insists that it can’t possibly say all those words. I think of someone desperately searching through the vast library of synonyms in his mind for an easier word or phrase, something he probably does on a daily basis. I think about the embarrassment of not even being able to tell someone your name or age. I think about a high school student standing in front of the whole class, longing to smoothly present the project he worked so hard on. I think of a required speech class. When I think about stuttering, I think about a struggle.
When I think about stuttering, I think of someone picking up that dreaded phone and making an appointment for himself for the first time in a long time. I think about someone sitting at a job interview stuttering through all his questions and answers, yet praising God the whole time. It doesn’t bother him, because he is finally okay with himself. He’s proud of the voice God gave him and confident in what he has to offer. I think about someone smiling from ear to ear because he just ordered an ice cream cone without stuttering at all. I think about someone celebrating every victory, no matter how small. I think about someone who has gained a deep appreciation for everything in life. When I think about stuttering, I think about courage.
Stuttering is hard. . .really hard. But it’s also beautiful. . .amazingly beautiful! It affects everything about my life, just like any other disability in the world; however, I think we should be cautious to not compare disabilities and challenges. Every disability is important. It has made me stronger and more reliant on the Lord. It has broken my heart and ruined my day. It has made me cry out to God in tears and cry out to Him in praise. It has sent me to doctors who tell me that there’s no cure and sent me to God Who tells me that I’m “fearfully and wonderfully made.” Stuttering, in every way, is a disability.
To the well-meaning person who downplays stuttering, please remember the 70 million people around the world who are fighting to say their own names. . .the people who are finding courage that they never knew they had. . .the people who so desire to stop being cast aside as just “anxious” or “attention-seeking.” I know in my heart that you don’t mean to belittle it. I believe that wholeheartedly. But please don’t make us feel silly by implying that it’s not that big of a deal. There are 70 million beautiful voices out there who know firsthand that it’s so much more than that.
With much love, Makenzie