Jamie Wilson has just completed the ‘Walking for Talking’ fundraising challenge for BSA. Growing up with a stammer was tough for Jamie, but his brother Dr AD Wilson suggests how those around can offer positive support.
It seems these days that you’re never far from a Facebook activist with an artsy filter and an eye for a selfie promoting awareness of something-or-other. So if the grinning faces of two lads, beer nearby, pops up on a feed proclaiming victory in their latest sponsored yomp, you could be forgiven for believing it was likely little more than an excuse to dust off the Gore-Tex cod pieces and head off for a jolly in the hills.
You’d also be dead wrong.
The Walking for Talking challenge, to raise money for The British Stammering Association, was a long time coming for Jamie Wilson, my wee brother. I think his story might be familiar to the people all over the world who have been in touch to offer him sponsorship and words of support and encouragement.
I remember the kid, jaw set, frown deepening, shoulders trembling with rage that he couldn’t gouge the words out of his head when he needed them most. Children can be cruel - the nail that sticks out gets hammered, but a speech impediment is more than that. Whenever a person is needed, challenged or even accused, they’re expected to stand up and give an account of themselves. There’s nothing more frustrating than impotence.
Years went by and a kid’s tears gave way to a teenager’s bruised knuckles and then to a young man trying to figure out who he was. At every turn he sought out opportunities to leave his comfort zone and try to speak in the situations he found most difficult. Some days went better than others, and bad days got dumped into a punch bag or out through running shoes.
There are people out there, you might be one of them, dealing with extraordinary misfortune, especially after a decade of war robbed many of lives in limbs in their prime. For me to suggest that a positive mental attitude can transform a sow’s ear into a silk purse would be naive going on for offensive. I stand by my view, though, that you’ve a better chance of a win by turning a robust face to a problem than hiding from it.
I spent my childhood thinking there was nothing I could do. I was wrong.
I spent my childhood thinking there was nothing I could do. It seemed to me a struggle was unfolding inside someone else’s head and the best I could aim for was not to make it worse. I was wrong. Yes, therapeutic interventions exist, yes, everything costs money and of course every penny of sponsorship was accepted with the deepest gratitude, but it doesn’t take cash to make a difference.
When someone’s on a stage in front of me, the tell-tale chin wobble kicking in and the words drying up, it would be easy to see a nervous-Nelly who can’t hold themselves together. I’d rather see someone with the grit to do something embarrassing that they know they’ve every chance of failing that.
We need to get better at seeing what every battler is trying to grow into and clear the way. We owe it to each other.
We need to get better at seeing what every battler is trying to grow into and clear the way.
In ‘Walking for Talking’, Jamie Wilson and a friend climbed the highest peak in every county of Northern Ireland within 24 hours, raising over £1,700 for BSA. You can donate at www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Jamie-Wilson23