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Thursday, October 25, 2007

Barriers or Hurdles?

Children were enthusiastically rehearsing and decorating the rural school for their approaching concert. As I glanced up from my teacher's desk, Patty stood waiting to lodge her urgent request.
"Every year I g-g-g-get to do quiet stuff. The other kids are always in a p-p-p-play or something. Talking. This year, I w-w-want to do a p-p-p-poem, myself!"
As I looked into those eager eyes, all possible excuses fizzled. Patty's yearning drew from me a promise that in a day or two she would have a special part - a
"reciting" part. That promise proved to be very difficult to keep.
None of my resource books had any useful selections. In desperation, I stayed up most of the night writing a poem, carefully avoiding those letters that trick the
tongue. It was not great literature, but it was custom-tailored to cope with Patty's speech problem.
After only a few brief readings, Patty had memorized all the verses and was prepared to dash through them. Somehow we had to control that rush without shattering
her enthusiasm. Day after day, Patty and I plodded through recitals. She meticulously matched her timing to my silent mouthing. She accepted the drudgery, eagerly anticipating her first speaking part. Concert night found the children in a frenzy of excitement.
In a dither the master of ceremonies came to me, waving his printed program. "There has been a mistake! You have listed Patty for a recitation. That girl can't even say her own name without stuttering." Because there was not time enough for explanations, I brushed his objection aside with, "We know what we are doing."

The entertainment was moving well. As item after item was presented, parents and friends responded with encouraging applause. When it was time for the questionable recitation, the MC again challenged me, insisting that Patty would embarrass everyone. Losing patience, I snapped, "Patty will do her part. You do yours. Just introduce her number."
I flitted past the curtains and sat on the floor at the foot of the audience. The MC appeared flustered as he announced, "The next recitation will be by . . .um . .
. Patty Connors." An initial gasp from the audience was followed by strained silence.
The curtain parted to show Patty, radiant, confident. Those hours of rehearsing took possession of the moment. In perfect control, the little charmer synchronized her words to my silent mouthing below the footlights. She articulated each syllable with
controlled clarity, and without a splutter or stammer. With eyes sparkling, she made her triumphant bow. The curtain closed. A hushed silence held the audience. Gradually the stillness gave way to suppressed chuckles, and then to enthusiastic applause. Utterly thrilled, I floated backstage. My little heroine threw her arms around me and, bubbling with joy, blurted out,
"We d-d-d-did it!"

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