on illiteracy and death


When I was seven I had a friend named Terry.  He was in his mid-30’s and was illiterate.

He was actually one of my mother’s drug buddies and she would sometimes leave him with me while she went out and about. I have a vague memory of how he looked. He had kind blue eyes and long dirty blond hair.

When I took out my Little House on the Prairie books to read, he would sit next to me and ask me to read out loud, so I did.

One day he told me he did not know how to read and asked me if I would teach him.  I was thrilled to be asked and excited to have a friend to share the stories with.  So it was.  Whenever ‘visiting’, he would sit with me and I would teach him in my seven year old way, how to read.

The passage of time in a child’s mind slows when there are no electronics around.  Guessing, but suspect I ‘tutored‘ him for several months. We got to a point where one day he took the book from me to read aloud on his own. Although his pacing was slow and he was unsure of pronunciations, he did read and I witnessed the happiness in his eyes at the accomplishment.

Terry drove a motorcycle.  After reading that day, he would leave, get hit by a car and die. My only friend.

Fast forward twelve years.  I had developed a growing desire to help others with illiteracy so volunteered at a local library to teach adults how to read.  My first student was Consuelo.  She was sixty-five years old.

We became fast friends and she is the one who led me on my walk into the Catholic church.  Within that year she was diagnosed with leukemia and underwent aggressive chemotherapy treatments. This sweet beautiful woman would lose her hair, become puffed with the medications, lose her ability to speak and eventually die.  Her husband would lose his faith in the church and denounce God.

What am I grateful for?

  • Understanding the undeniable power held in having a voice, owning it and using it. For self and for others.
  • Understanding the human heart cannot tell all of its stories in words such that man can ever fully grasp what is held within.
  • Understanding that spiritual illiteracy sometimes takes a hold of all of us and requires that we perform a makeover within or suffer forever without.

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