He shook my hand and did not let go until I had gotten my name out. Nobody had ever done that before. Seconds passed. He smiled kindly and said, “Take your time.” Right then, I knew that I was about to experience something special.
On Thursday night, I went to my very first NSA (National Stuttering Association) chapter meeting. I had been dreaming about going to one for years, so when the day finally came, I was absolutely thrilled. I had never met anyone else who stuttered. I always knew that there were thousands of people out there walking this same path with me, but I had never shaken their hands or heard their voices. I knew that it would be special going to one of these meetings, but I never could have prepared myself for what it would actually feel like to sit in a room full of people who understand each other so well that we could probably finish each other’s sentences. It was an experience that I will never forget.
I met eleven people on Thursday who inspired me beyond words with their courage, tenacity, and zeal for life. As I listened to each of their stories, I was reminded that stuttering does not have to define what we achieve in life. None of them had let their stuttering keep them from chasing their dreams and doing what they love. They saw their stuttering as a gift that gave them so much more compassion for others. Since I was one of the youngest people in the group, most of the people there had made it through college already and were thriving in jobs that they loved. Just being with them and hearing their stories filled my heart with so much hope for the future. They were living proof that no star is too far out of reach.
During the meeting, I had the opportunity to share my own story with the group. As I spoke, I experienced a sense of freedom that I had never felt in all my life. In that room, we did not have to worry about how someone would react to us. When we looked up, all we saw were kind smiling faces. There was no fear, no hesitation, no doubts. There was just love, and kindness, and friendship. It was like being with family.
Every one of us stuttered very differently, and I found such beauty in that. I loved listening to every unique voice. We were all so different, but yet, so alike because we were bound together by our mutual experiences. We talked about how we stutter so much more when we are tired or stressed and how we know right when we get up in the morning whether it will be a good or bad “speaking day.” We even laughed together about how hard it always is to say our names. We understood each other so well. I felt as if I was talking to people I had known forever. I felt HOME.
Words can not describe how I felt leaving that meeting. My heart felt like it would burst, and I was smiling down to my soul. I am not alone on this journey…and I never have been. Not only do I have the Lord walking beside me, but I have thousands of friends who stutter all over the world. I just haven’t met some of them yet.
Several of them remarked, “You know, life is still so good, in spite of everything.” Yes, it truly is. Never let your struggles, whether big or small, destroy your quality of life. Never stop loving this life.
Two days later…I’m STILL smiling!
Much love, Makenzie