Phil and Painful Speech


Phil is a young single man in his early thirties. We met him at a study group in a small inner city church. In short order it became apparent that he is afflicted with a most unusual speech impediment.

Not a stutter or a stammer. It is more of a balk when the right words come to mind. Then the speaking of some "fill" until another word grouping is decided upon to say the intended thing.

In expression of thought, one might compare it to the man who intended to visit his neighbour 3 doors down his block counter-clockwise, took a few steps, stopped, then turned around and proceeded clockwise to travel around the entire block to reach his destination.

It is a sad and painful thing to watch. As in the case of a stutterer, one is tempted to jump into the conversation to offer the word or words causing the roadblock. I noticed that no one in the group volunteered such an intervention. They were prepared to wait it out, and let Phil have his say. This was the better way...for Phil.

I wondered whether it was all about shyness or low self-esteem. No it was something more complicated than that. Hilary and I waited it out with the others. As best we could we used our faces to say, ""This is good Phil. Keep going. Your point is well taken, There is nothing wrong here." In short order Phil's face relaxed as if at the discovery of new friends. But the disability persisted. I tried to think of schooling, romance or employment for such a one.

Almost everyone in that group suffered some setback - mood disorder, depression, diabetes, unemployment, obsession-compulsion. It was a group who would probably stay away from conventional churches out of awkwardness or embarrassment. It had become the particular delight of Pastors Mark and Rose to bring opportunities of worship and fellowship to such people in the core of Kitchener.

We got a surprise when a passage of scripture was read corporately around the circle. Phil's turn came and he proceeded to read effortlessly and professionally through his portion without difficulty. The same occurred during the singing of some choruses. Composed, clear beautiful speech from Phil.

Where is the key to unlock the padlock which binds this young man? Somewhere in the atmosphere of love and patience and Christ.

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