Make Room For The Stuttering

Small Gesture Speaks Volumes

Posted on: September 9, 2009

Last night I gave a Toastmaster’s speech. The objective was accepting an award. I am working out of the Special Occasions advanced manual. These projects give you experience with delivering the non-traditional speech, such as making a toast and giving an eulogy.

So last night’s challenge was to accept an award with gratitude, sincerity and recognition of the organization bestowing the award. The manual called for me to bring an actual award to use as a prop and to accept the award authentically.

So I decided to say what I wanted to say at the National Stuttering Association annual conference in July when I was awarded the 2009 Volunteer of the Year award. I was so choked up and emotional that I was unable to say anything beyond thank you.

I decided to speak from the heart and just let emotion guide me instead of overwhelm me. So I talked about how gratified I was to be recognized by an organization that does so much to help people who stutter. And their parents and families, schools, doctors, employers and the community. I shared the story of a very special moment that powerfully impacted me at one of my very first NSA meetings 3 years ago.

When I walked into my first self-help group meeting, I was overwhelmed by hearing other people stutter openly around me. I had always thought and felt  I was  alone with my stuttering, since I had never before met anyone else who stuttered. That first meeting was intensely overwhelming. I could not face the wave of emotions rolling over me. I left mid-way though the meeting.

Something pulled me back to the next meeting the following week though. I purposely chose a seat close to the back where I could make a safe get-away if  needed. The group started the round-robin introductions, where everybody said their name and what their speaking goal for the night would be. Before it even got half way through the circle, my emotions rushed up again, rising from my gut to my throat and I could hear my heart pounding. My eyes welled up and my leg started shaking. I was getting ready to bolt.

But a remarkable thing happened next. The person sitting  next to me caught my eye for a brief instant, nodded and then she put her hand on my knee. Thats all. She just rested her hand on my knee. That tiny gesture filled me with such reassurance and hope. I couldn’t leave now. And when it came my turn, I was able to compose myself and pass, which was fine.

I have never forgotten that moment. That simple gesture, with no words needed, gave me the confidence to keep coming back to the support group. I eventually found my voice and introduced myself to the group as a person who stutters. I cried when I said that for the first time, and that same person was right there, silently cheering me on.

That moment inspired me to get involved in the stuttering community, to give back and “pay it forward”. Three years later, I find myself immersed in the stuttering world and finding personal healing by giving myself to others who need to see that it is OK to stutter.

So last night, I shared that story of a simple gesture, and how that moment led to others that profoundly changed my life. I accepted the award like I had wanted to when it was first given to me in July.

Have you ever had a moment that really impacted you and changed your life?  I will never forget this, and hope to always be inspired to reach out to someone. You never know how that small gesture might change a life.

Getting an award is wonderful. Living a life that matters and has meaning is priceless.

5 Responses to "Small Gesture Speaks Volumes"

This was absolutely beautiful Pam! You made me cry. So powerful. Thank you so much for sharing 🙂

Hi Pam another GREAT one. Loved it and it reminded me of my first NSA conference in Boston. I do not think that Alex B really knows how hard he hit me without even us getting within 6 feet of each other.

Thanks for sharing

aww I just got chills reading the hand on the knee. I love that movie Pay it Forward –when i saw it when I was younger I just remember what a powerful impact someone so little was having on the world. As I get older I realize even the smallest actions can change someone’s life for the better.

Wow Pam ,
that was fantastic and so meaningful ,it made me tearful ,i would love to be able to make that first step towards a group ,oneday maybe ….

This was great! It reminded me that in June I started following the AIS blog and on June 30th you commented on the blog about how you liked hearing about other peoples’ success and triumphs. Then Carl Herder responded to you by saying,

“Openness about stuttering with those close to you can be such a key factor for PWS. It provides a support system that for some, has never been there before. As our clients wrap up therapy, we always encourage them to have a conversation with close friends and family to communicate what these people can do to help, if anything.”

Because of his reponse I decided to e-mail Carl and see if I get help on how to talk to my parents about stuttering. And through talking with him through e-mail for 2 weeks I decided to accept that I am a person who stutters.

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© Pamela A Mertz and Make Room For The Stuttering, 2009 - 2022. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Pamela A Mertz and Make Room For The Stuttering with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Same protection applies to the podcasts linked to this blog, "Women Who Stutter: Our Stories" and "He Stutters: She Asks Him." Please give credit to owner/author Pamela A Mertz 2022.
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