|About the presenter: Russ Hicks has stuttered significantly all his life. He lives in Dallas, Texas, and joined the National Stuttering Project (now the National Stuttering Association) in 1985 and Toastmasters in 1988. He has had great success in Toastmasters, winning the Southwestern United States Regional Humorous Speech Contest in 1996, and recently attaining the rank of DTM, a Distinguished Toastmaster, the highest rank in Toastmasters International. He is currently the president of the Dallas Chapter of the NSA. Russ was the NSA national Member of the Year in 2000 and has a personal home page at www.russhicks.com.|
The "Gift of Stuttering" eh? Is that anything like the "Gift of Typhoid?" Yeah, I know it sometimes feels that way, but I want to share with you some thoughts that may change your mind about that. Let me tell you three very personal stories that have gone a long way to convince me that stuttering is, indeed a gift. Just so you know, I am a VERY "overt" stutterer. You talk with me for 15 seconds and you will KNOW beyond any doubt that I stutter To know me is to know that I stutter. In truth that's probably made life a little easier for me than for those who have the skill to hide their stuttering. As my good friend Vicki Schutter recently said on Stutt-L in response to the statement "You can run but you can't hide," she said, "Yeah, I guess that's what's easier for us 'obvious' stutterers. When you know you can't hide, why bother running?" Yep, that's me.
Story number 1: You Can Reach People That Other People Can't Reach
After the class was over, this little girl whom I had never noticed came up to me and handed me a folded up note. I smiled and thanked her for it, but I continued to talk with the teacher. The girl left the room and after a few minutes the teacher asked me what was in the note. So I opened it and here is what it said:
I really appreciate you coming to our class to talk to us. Texas Instruments is a big company and I'm sure you are usually very busy, but you took time off to talk to us. I admire you because you have courage. Whenever someone talks to me and I have a problem and they make fun of me and I cry. But you aren't scared of your small problem which is why I admire you because you are a wonderful man.
I will try to be more like you and ignore my problems and go on towards success.
Thanks a lot,
I have that note in a frame on the wall in my office to this day. It is one of my most prized possessions.
When a Division Governor comes to a club meeting, it's general protocol to give him or her an opportunity to speak. I always directed my remarks to the new Toastmasters in the club and encouraged them "go for it" and overcome their fear of public speaking. I got pretty good at delivering that message, and told my story of when ** I ** started out in Toastmasters and how terribly frightened I was. I ended up with words like "for goodness sakes, if ** I ** can do it, so can you!" There was always lots of nice laughter and nods of agreement, yes indeed, that's GOT to be true.
Then came that awful day.... For some stupid reason I was late leaving the house and got tangled up in the awful Dallas rush hour traffic. I finally got to the restaurant where the meeting was and had terrible time finding a place to park. Jeez.... not one of my better days! Anyway, I finally stumbled into meeting and didn't know a soul. Complete strangers. I hate it when that happens! Anyway I walked into the meeting about 10 minutes late to the words of "Here he is now, fellow Toastmasters! Please help me welcome our Division Governor, Russ Hicks!" Clap, clap, clap... I stumbled up to the lectern and smiled and launched into my standard spiel of when I started out in Toastmasters and how scared I was, yada, yada, yada, and "if I can do it, so can you!" ...
Dead silence... no smiles... you could hear a pin drop! I was aghast! What in the world had happened?
My mind raced at supersonic speed desperately trying to figure out what was going on and suddenly like a lightning bolt out of the blue it hit me! I had been fluent! All during that "wonderful" speech, I hadn't stuttered a single time! It was one of those wildly erratic fluency times for me! God, what makes that happen? And why did it have to happen NOW, of all times? The fact that I did NOT stutter made me exactly like everyone else there. I had ZERO credibility with my fear of public speaking! What was I talking about? What was my message? At that point there was NONE, and my speech had fallen flat as a pancake! Having people KNOW I stutter and SHOWING them what it was like WAS my message. But to them, I was just another guy flapping his lips.!
Anyway once I realized what the problem was, I threw in a TON of voluntary stuttering, and made at least a partially successful attempt to redeem myself. Once they SAW and HEARD me stutter, my credibility slowly returned and I was able to pick up most of the pieces of my message. To say that I learned a BUNCH that day is the understatement of my life! My stuttering IS my message to the world, and my victory overcoming that difficulty is what they needed to hear. Not becoming fluent for cryin' out loud! But stuttering and "feeling the fear and doing it anyway." That's a universal message and people respond to it! My WORDS were really nonsense. My ACTIONS in speaking to them was the real message.
"You touched another life."
"Dear Russ Hicks: You AMAZE me! Sandra said it best, "courage" ... We all fight fear to overcome the obstacles that stand between us and our destiny. When we are faced with fear, we have two options: 1) Face it head on and deal with it, and 2) run from it. Oh how much we miss because we avoid our fears! The Bible says, "... in our weakness, there is our strength." There was a great power in your presentation because you made yourself vulnerable to encourage others. What a leader!!!!"
Those are just three of many stories I have about how my stuttering has actually HELPED me in life. I was able to reach the little Mexican girl BECAUSE I stuttered. I was able to reach the new Toastmasters BECAUSE I stuttered. I was able to touch that guy's life BECAUSE I stuttered. If I had been fluent, I couldn't have done those things.
As you can tell, I really enjoy MY Gift of Stuttering!