Thursday, February 26, 2015

Friends with a Person Who Stutters

From the title of the post, you might be wondering what this is all about (and why the overly dramatic picture of an egg roll?) Rewind to a month ago. I was texting one of my really close friends, David. As usual, I was sending him text after text after text with solely the link to my blog (I have shameless disposition, what can I say). Through the course of our conversation back and forth, he asked if he could possibly be a guest writer on the blog. I was intrigued. I knew he wouldn't want to write anything about cooking or food (unless it was about how to eat it). I text back the first thing that came to mind: Me: “You know what I think it would be interesting? If you wrote a post about being friends with a person who stutters”
David: Really?
Me: Yeah, I think it will be interesting to get an outsiders perspective.
David: I'll see what I can do

Fast forward a week later and I had a document waiting in my inbox. This, my friends, is that document. Every word in this letter was 100% written by David. I had no say in what or how he worded anything. I am so thankful for David and him writing this. He has been such a close and outstanding friend. I hope the words he says are beneficial in helping people who stutter to find solace in good-quality friends and family. Being backed by people who love and support you is vitally important to be a successful communicator and a person. Just remember, life is like an egg roll, it's what you put into it that matters. 

Note: I’m going to be making some interjections throughout. David’s text will be bolded and mine will be in italics from here on.

Friends with a person who stutters

I have “known” Nate for a really long time. But for a good portion of our childhood/adolescence, we were really just acquaintances. We grew up in different towns, went to different schools, and really only saw each other on Sundays at church. Then, midway through high school, he and his family not only moved to my town, but actually chose to live right down the street from me (everyone covets those close spots to my place, ya know). Having grown up in frustration trying to play backyard games with nothing but girls in the neighborhood, it was truly an answered prayer to finally have some guy neighbors to do stuff with. To this day Nate and I, along with his twin brother and some other friends of ours, regularly hang out and attempt to play sports, and do other fun things (like extreme croquet!). We even have had a couple of college classes together. Fitting to his major, Nate and his family have always been hospitable towards me. Their doors are always open (I’m referring to the refrigerator and pantry doors). ←This is incredibly true. Although we’ve become good friends, someone with an outside perspective would say we’re really not that much alike. And they’d probably be right. Just about the only things Nate and I have in common are our blonde hair and our love of food. ←Wow, that is terrifyingly true. Why are we good friends? While he loves to cook/bake/fry/mash/grind/dress/mangle/upholster/eat food, I just love to eat it. I’ve lived through some of his less than fantastic cooking ventures, and also have my personal favorites! I’ve had to gently tell him about his overload of cocoa powder (the dish in question was Tiramisu. The event: a dinner party. The outcome: over an extra cup of cocoa powder. It was a dark day in the Crawford household), and not-so-gently tell him that I demand apple pie cookies! We have some different preferences when it comes to books, music, movies, hobbies, etc. And there also might be a somewhat distinguishable height difference (hey, it’s just a number), but we find a common ground with faith and food. With God and grub. Jesus and Jell-O! Though Nate claims his stuttering began when he was five, I didn’t ever notice it until someone pointed it out to me in sixth grade. Stuttering is most common in children, but also affects less than 1% of adults. Reaching the magic number of eighteen a couple years ago, Nate is now in that group. 

“What’s it like being friends with someone who stutters?” 

To be honest, I don’t think much about it. Though, based on the numbers, it is considered abnormal, I see Nate just as I see everyone else (even if we aren’t the same height). I don’t label my friends by saying, “This is the sloppy one,” or “This is the fat one,” or “This is the one who stutters.” I call them my friends. They categorize stuttering as a disability, but the difference between it and more mental or physical disabilities that we think of as common, is that it is not easily identifiable by appearance only. “Are you ever embarrassed to be around a guy that stutters?” No. Unless he makes a really bad pun…then I shield my face and act like he’s a complete stranger (← which happens surprisingly often). But no really, while he is not a kid and does not need to be babysat, I feel like I would take on the role of protector/defender if need be (even though I’m only a few months older). Don’t get me wrong, Nate can defend himself, but he would have to beat me to it if I were around. Loyalty in friendship is everything. If my friend is going through a rough time, I want to be there. If they are being picked on, I want to protect and defend. I don’t look down upon him (again, height-wise, I kind of do) and his “disability.” I try instead to be someone who does not draw any negative attention to it. “Are there any difficulties that go along with being friends with a stutterer?” There’s only one that I can think of, and it becomes less and less of an issue the more I am around him. But earlier on in our friendship, the temptation would be to help him finish what he is trying to say. Avoiding that can sometimes be a challenge. But it helps me practice not interrupting people in general. There have been a handful of times when I have, without thinking about it, tried to speak for him. But in my opinion, that is one of the worst things to do. Among other things, it could make him feel inadequate, it could make me seem impatient, and it simply will just not help in the long run. I am certainly not a doctor (disappointing, I know), but I think one of the major cures for stuttering is confidence. That will not build if he has someone talking to him at all times. I believe Nate is growing more confident in who he is day by day. Yes, he stutters at times, but that is not his identity. Elvis Presley was a natural blonde, but that was not his identity. Jerry Springer was once the mayor of Cincinnati, but that certainly doesn’t define him. Look beyond the “disability” to see the real Nate. A personality like none other…
“Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” – Winston Churchill, Stutterer. A good cook knows this concept quite well. Not everything goes right at all times, but Nate has never lost the passion to concoct creative cuisine. “When you are mute, you become a good listener – it’s all one way. You appreciate the written word. You appreciate the sound.” – James Earl Jones, Stutterer. Genuinely good listeners are few and far between, but it is another important quality in friendship. Nate is a good friend and a friend that stutters. I only pay attention to the first phrase of that sentence because it is all that matters. We all have our quirks, whether controllable or not. Look past the surface and discover the true person.

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