Untouched books crowded his shelves, shiny leather spines and faded first editions, meticulously dusted and never read. Brian always sighed when he thought of all of the knowledge denied to him because he was illiterate. He was successful, so people assumed that he could read, but because of the immense shame he felt at this deficiency, it was one of his best-kept secrets, especially from the women he dated.
He loved bookish women, enjoying listening to them for hours discussing their work and their beliefs about how the world worked. It was his undivided attention to them talking about themselves that made him so popular. When they would ask what he had read on the subject, he would respond, “I am more intersted in what you have to say, ” retaining his secret and his dignity. Then he met Katie.
Katie was a Sociology professor, and she had perfected knowing when a student struggled with reading. She would take them aside and ask softly if they had trouble reading the book, approaching in a way that allowed the students to retain their dignity and not invoke in them shame. So far, she had been successful in getting them to admit to the problem and then she would get them the help they needed.
When Katie walked into Brian’s library, she was amazed at the titles of the books in his library. When she asked him which was his favorite book, his hesitation and the look of shame that crossed his face set her alarms off, and she knew that he couldn’t read. But, how could she offer this proud man to teach him to read without losing the promising relationship that had developed between them?
One night as she talked, she told him of one of her students, a star football player who had faked reading throughout school but was finding it more difficult to do so in college. She related how she had approached him and got him to admit that he couldn’t read. She met with him each morning before football practice and on weekends when he didn’t have a game. He became a good student, eventually becoming a talented attorney.
Brian looked at her, and he realized that she knew his secret. Putting his ego aside, he asked for her help. Night and night, the two of them worked together to overcome this deficit in his knowledge. She started with one of the books he had, The Call of the Wild, rather than starter books for little kids, to maintain his dignity and also touch his adventuresome side.
He loved learning the story of this brave dog who reminded him of himself and of how he had to fight to be where he was because of his poor beginnings and lack of education. Reading became a joy for him, and he couldn’t remember another gift so precious and life-giving to his spirit.
He married Katie, and they practically read all of the classics and first editions that he possessed. When the children were born, he loved reading to them, enjoying seeing the light of joy in their eyes as they listened to their father read of adventures galore.
Brian learned that reading truly is the gift that never stops giving joy, peace, and wonderment about the world around us. He thanked God for sending Katie in his life and for the opportunity to stretch his knowledge to widths and depths unbelieved before she came into his life.
Written for the First Line Friday for August 28, 2020 from Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie.