It was just another summer morning. The sun was shining through every window, and I was feeling ready for my day. Even though Washington is notoriously known for its rainy seasons, it always makes up for it in the summer. I was on my way to work and decided to make a pit-stop at my favorite coffee place.
I begin to order my drink; a vanilla latte with almond milk, but of course, when I don’t want my stutter to appear, it taps on my shoulder and says, “Hey, remember me? You can’t get rid of me that easy!”
I make it through, “Can I please get…”, and then it starts. The blocks show up first. I feel like the light that was once there has vanished. I press my lips tensely together, at first uncontrollably, and then I start to relax, and I finally get the first word out, vanilla. Then comes out another hard word for me at times, latte. At this point, I am too far in to back out.
Over the past couple of years, my speech therapist has always encouraged me to push myself and speak even when I felt like substituting a difficult word with an easier one, or not talking at all.
I decided this time not to take the easy way out because A) A vanilla latte sounded TOO good to pass up, B) I knew that my speech therapist would ask me how I am doing with this certain goal during our next therapy session, and C) I felt like it was time for me to push past my fear.
I’m halfway there to finishing my coffee order when I start to notice the cashier. Instead of looking down or away from me, he is making direct eye contact. He doesn’t have the familiar concerned look on his face either. The face I’m talking about usually consists of furrowed brows, a tilted head, and semi-squinted eyes. Even though I know that people mean well, it can get old quickly.
After still struggling with my coffee for much longer than I usually do, I begin to laugh slightly at myself and say, “I’m sorry, I have a stutter. Sometimes things like this can be hard for me to say.” You would’ve thought that I would’ve been able to say my coffee order easily if I was able to say that! But nope! It’s funny how stuttering works because my apology just flowed from me, unlike the phrase, “vanilla latte with almond milk.”
Instead of receiving the normal, “Oh, it’s okay” without making eye contact, or the occasional nod, I get a different answer. Instead, he responds with, “Oh please don’t apologize, you have absolutely nothing to be sorry for. Please take your time. I’ll be right here when you’re ready,” all without breaking eye contact with me.
To be honest, I was partially shocked. Out of all of the times that I have ordered food, or talked with a complete stranger, I have never gotten that response before. I felt like his kind comments were spreading and covering up the dark spots in my heart. I proceeded to tell him my drink order, and I also told him how I appreciated him for being understanding. Then I went about the rest of my day with my delicious vanilla latte in hand, and with a glowing smile on my face.
I once found a quote that said, “It is amazing how just a small act of kindness can show someone that there is still love left in the world (author unknown).
If you’re someone like me who stutters or has something else going on, don’t you appreciate small acts of kindness like that? I don’t know about you, but encounters like that always make my day. It can be discouraging to have to always try so hard and feel like you're getting nowhere. With small acts of kindness like that, it shines a light on the fact that sometimes putting the effort in, & that can be enough.
After that day, I felt increasingly confident to be more forthright about my stutter. Even though people like that cashier don’t show up all of the time, who says that it couldn’t happen again? Ultimately, I’ve decided to give people the benefit of the doubt.
If you’re like me, and it's not always natural for you to talk about what you’re struggling with, or if you’re like the cashier, and you aren’t sure if you should say something like "Please take your time," I encourage you to just DO it!
Even though it might make you feel awkward, or it might be scary, I believe that it is always worth a try. Because who knows, you just might make someone else’s day or feel proud of yourself for simply trying.
If you're interested to know more about stuttering therapy at Circle Creek Therapy, please give us a call at 253.237.3405! We would love to talk with you!