This morning on CBS Sunday Morning, there was a poignant story about a WWII veteran, one of the few living soldiers who participated in the D-Day landing. He had a box full of military medals, but that wasn’t what this story was about. Instead, this piece was about another battle that he fought all of his life.
Throughout his life, he was cut out of a very important world–the world of reading. Others “covered” for him with work reports and other important documents he needed to understand. And he was ashamed that he let them do that for him. He thought being illiterate was more shameful than anything in his life. Oh, he tried to learn to read at different periods, but either he quit or his teacher gave up.
That is, until he recently met a young woman at Northeastern University, who gave him the patience and had the skills to open up the world of reading for him at age 90. His story should be an inspiration for all of us.
First, all of us who can read don’t realize what a precious gift our teachers gave us a long time ago. We can experience different worlds, professions, viewpoints, through millions articles, newspapers and books. We can enjoy novels that touch our hearts. Words are all around us. It’s how we learn. It’s how we expand our worlds from one single town to the universe.
Second, as writers, we are even more blessed because we can contribute our ideas and thoughts to the libraries. We have a chance to touch others in memorable ways. Our true or fiction stories have the power to change people’s lives. With that being true, we must also remember it is our responsibility to tell the truth as we know it.
I know from now on when I want to whine about how hard it is to write on a particular day, I will remember that veteran, shut up, and get to work. His quest to learn to read taught me something today. He appreciates books and what they contain. If I never becoming a best selling author, it will be my fault because he reminded me that if I want something, I have to go after it. I have to dig deep, work hard and keep my eye on the prize.
In his memorable words, “If you want to do something, get in there and learn now because you ain’t going to learn in that pine box.”