What is taking so long?
I recently had the pleasure of working with a gentleman with expressive aphasia. Aphasia is an acquired disorder (often occurring after a stroke) where a person struggles to use or understand language....sometimes both at once. This gentleman specifically has difficulty using language. He knows all the words he wants to say, but when he tries to speak, the right words don't always come out. Sometimes what comes out even sounds like made up words.
We live in a society that is always on the go. We rush from home to school, to work, back to school, to soccer, back home...you get the picture. Often times it's hard to find time to sit down and enjoy a meal. We may have to quickly go through a drive-thru. Or maybe we have an hour break for lunch where we can meet a friend so we go inside to order and eat and visit before heading back to work. Tick Tick Tick! Time is clicking away so we need to hurry!!
Well, now imagine that you had a stroke and struggle to get your words out. Imagine what it would be like to finally feel brave enough to head to a restaurant and try ordering so that you can enjoy lunch out with a friend that you haven't been able to do in a couple of years since your stroke. You practiced this in therapy with your speech-language pathologist, you desperately want to do something normal like everyone else. So you go up to the counter and try to order. As you're working on speaking you can hear the people in line behind you sighing or saying "Gosh, what is this guy doing? What is taking so long?" So while trying to focus on the words you want to say, you're also thinking "Oh geeze, these people behind me are getting upset. They're going to think I'm stupid." Ultimately you say "Never mind," and decide to leave, noticing that the people behind you give you a look like, "Thank God, now this guy can get out of the way and I can order. Next time know what you want before you get up there."
Have you ever been that person in line tapping your foot feeling impatient? Have you thought those rude thoughts about someone else, thinking they're just trying to be inconvenient? Be honest, we have all been there.
But now it's time to change. We need to get better about considering others' situations. Until someone actually experiences the inability to communicate, it's hard to imagine what that would be like. But as someone who has worked with MANY people who struggle to communicate, trust me, it is devastating. It's a loss of independence. It's isolation. It's feeling like everyone thinks you are mentally incompetent.
So next time you're in a line, whether it's a drive-thru, or at the grocery store, the post office, the movies, stop and try to consider the many challenges that others face; and take a breath. Life already moves too fast, let's all try to slow it down a bit and appreciate the opportunities, as simple as they may be, that we are given.
P.S. The story of trying to order and just leaving, actually happened to the gentleman I mentioned.