I must confess, I have been blind to a number of blessings in my life. There are several things I take for granted, an example: the ability to read and write. I cannot begin to even imagine my life without books, journals, and pens. There would be no use for the three overcrowded bookshelves in my room. I would not spend hours browsing the sections of Books A Million and leave the store with thirty dollars less to my name. I would never fall in love with any fictional character and mourn their tragic end or rejoice that their achievements. The more I reflect upon how my life would be if I could not read or write a sentence, the more I find myself praising God that I am able to do both. Till recently, I have thought little about how blessed I am to have these two vital abilities. Till recently, I have thought little about how blessed I am to have these two vital abilities.
I often volunteer at the United Way of Seneca, a job which mainly consists of manning the front desk, organizing pamphlets, and answering the phone. A few months ago, I had an encounter there that ripped the blinders off my eyes and ultimately shattered my heart. It was in the middle of a downpour when he limped into the office. Despite the dreary weather, he was smiling as he put his cane aside and took a seat.
He informed me that he had come on the behalf of his wife, she was in need of prescribed medication and they could not afford the demanding price due to finical difficulties. The only available worker was currently tied up in a meeting, so I offered him to stay in the comfort of the main lobby till they were available. He thanked me and began to make small talk. He had told me that he had trouble finding the office since we switched locations. At first, I did not think much of this statement, for other people had made similar comments. But what he said next truly devastated me. “You see, it takes me longer to learn where places are because I can’t read.”
He must have noticed the shock on my face because he launched into the story of his early life. He was born premature and had various medical issues. The doctors had apparently given up hope on him ever making through the night. But his parents had held onto their faith and pleaded with the Lord to spare their son and their prayers were answered. The elderly man described how he grew up in poverty and how his parents had to pull him out of school at a young age so he could work with his father to bring in more income. As a result, he never properly learned how to read or write formal sentences. “I can sign my name though” he told me towards the end of our conversation.
When he left, I was reduced to a humble mess of tears and awe. Even as I type this now, my eyes still feel the telltale sting of oncoming tears. This man, this stranger has faced so many hardships in life and has still managed to keep a smile on his face for all of these years. His story is one worth telling and while he continues to share his story with those who will listen, I plan to share it with all who will read. Never again, will I ever take reading and writing for granted.