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.
I enjoyed talking with you last night at Toastmasters, although I must apologize for making a fool of myself. I have seen you at meetings, but not noticed or remembered Russ' stammer. When he smiled and greeted me so pleasantly, I assumed too quickly he was playing with words, and I repeated the word he repeated. I hope you will forgive my insensitive behavior, and I hope I will have the blessing of hearing many more of your stories and jokes. I look forward to seeing you next month.
Susie Smith (not her real name, of course)
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.