A Wonderful Card

by Russ Hicks

First a little background. Last week my wife Stachia and I went to a monthly pitch-in dinner at one of the Toastmaster clubs I belong to. We had a great time, good people, good conversation, lots of laughs. Overall it was a fun-filled evening. Every regular member in the club knows I stutter and it's totally a non-issue, even for me. (Especially for me that night, because there was this apple pie that was soooo good...! Ha, ha!)

But there was someone there who I didn't remember seeing before. I vaguely remember saying hi to her and we talked for a few minutes. The rest of the evening passed pleasantly and "a good time was had by all" - or so I thought.

Several days later I received the following carefully hand written card in the mail. Here's what it said.

You know, I'm embarrassed to admit it, but I don't have the slightest memory of that incident other than possibly she was the person I mentioned above. And I was very surprised by her card.

Nevertheless, isn't that card so cool? So nice and considerate of her. We who stutter often think "fluent people just don't understand us," but there's a flip side to that belief. Sometimes we don't understand what happens to them.

While this was a totally forgettable incident to me, it obviously wasn't to her. After her initial "Oh my god, what have I done?" reaction when she realized that I really did stutter, it apparently bothered her so deeply that she wrote me a card to apologize. Isn't that simply amazing?

Sometimes we get hurt by incidents that are totally insignificant to other people. And we are so hurt that it takes us a day or so to figure out what to do or say. Why didn't she simply say "Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to say that."? Because she's human. Why don't we say, "I stutter and sometimes I stumble on words."? Because we're human. Making social faux pas and/or embarrassing ourselves often drives us inward, typically trying to forget the whole thing - or suffer with the memory of it long after the other person has totally forgotten all about it. How sad and unnecessary that is.

What is incredible about this note is that she did something about it! That is so rare. And it gives me an opportunity to respond to her, reassure her that no harm was done, and more importantly, send her the NSP "Notes to Listeners" brochure. The more people know about stuttering, the less likely they will fall into that same trap again. And believe me, they appreciate that! It's a win-win situation.

Anyway, this was such a neat experience, I just had to share it with you.

added with permission January 17, 1999