“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
My stutter grew like a cancer. 

It sprouted in childhood, with the m’s and n’s on my lips, then spread to the glottal stops in the back of my throat. I cultivated an expansive vocabulary, hoping to avoid the most troublesome words, but in my retreat the stutter spread to the obedient ones. 

I envied my friends who could say precisely what they wanted on the first try. Who didn’t have to plan pauses or precipitate their prose to plow over problematic phrases. For whom telephones were not objects of fear.

But my stutter was a teacher. It taught me empathy – for the limited, the misunderstood, and those whose voices had been stifled. It taught me to listen, that I too may be heard. It taught me the serenity to accept it would never leave me and the perseverance not to feed it, that it might starve.

But its greatest lesson was courage. Courage in high school to step forward at every chance to speak in public, from stage productions to student government. Courage to compete in (and win) the school’s annual oratory contest. Courage to join the military, briefing senior commanders and their troops on deployment. Courage to bring this service mission home.

Courage to speak for those who can’t.

— Nathan Bruschi