Seniors: What is the Best Story You Ever Heard that Inspired Empathy & Changed Your Life for the Better?

I heard a story on NPR--probably 'This American Life'--about a fellow, who happened to be African-American, who had to quit school at a very young age to help the family by getting a job to help pay the bills. His Dad had recently died & Ma--being the times as they were--was unable to get a job that paid enough to support the fam.

So he had never learned to read well.

He got into truck driving by the skin of his teeth & was very good at it & loved the job, but b/c of his low-literacy, he had a hard time reading maps, thus getting to his destinations on time. He ended up losing his job b/c he wasn't getting to his customers in a timely fashion & subsequently lost his wife & kids through divorce because of the financial strains his lack of permanent employment put on everyone in the household.

The surprising thing is that NOBODY knew of his literacy issues--not his brother, wife, kids, etc.--he was so embarrassed that he couldn't read, he told no one.

Eventually he went to a literacy program geared for adults & he said that once he learned how to read, he felt like he was living on a different planet! No longer did he have to just recognize print or symbols to know what store he was shopping at--let's say the barber pole--he could actually READ what the signage said! He said he use to make trips 30 miles away to go to a hair-cutter that specialized to people of colour, but once he learned to read, he found out their was a barber for him 5 miles down the road! And he had passed that building hundreds of times not knowing it was a barber!

How easy his life had become just knowing how to read.

This story humbled me when I heard it. I hope I hear it again b/c now I can hear it in a new light.

I always looked down on people with low literacy, accusing them of being 'lazy'. Now I know it's often natural, healthy pride that keeps some from seeking a teacher--or maybe it's us, the judgemental people who kept him in the shadows. I felt very ashamed for how I felt about those adults who had trouble reading.

Ever since I heard this story, I've always wanted to teach an adult to read. I have no training, but maybe one day I will, or maybe I'll just 'wing it'.

What is your inspirational moment?


'S' I read 'Black Like Me' a couple of years ago--very good book--but the other two I have not. I will definitely be looking into them. If it can help me be a better person, I'm all for it. '

2 Answers

  • Dinah
    Lv 7
    9 years ago
    Favorite Answer

    Raised in the South beginning '47, amid racism my life long. Discovered Morris Dees' Montgomery, Alabama law center foundation dealing with hate crime about ten years ago, where investigations, lawsuit outcomes and incidents are reported nationwide. Proud to say the South is no longer the legitimate scapegoat. Finally other states' hate groups are made clear. Dees' and his partner's efforts have succeeded in causing bankruptcies right and left to hate crime organizations' nationwide real estate holdings. I've done what I can do all my life, but my name's on their Wall of Tolerance, designed by the woman who designed the Washington Viet Nam wall.

  • S
    Lv 7
    9 years ago

    Over forty years ago with all the race riots etc our teacher has us read 'Black Like Me' This was a true story of a white man who went to a doctor who gave him treatments to darken his skin He then went down in the deep south to live as a black man. How the color of ones skin could change how you were treated. He found out just how it was. Another story is written by Ben Carson.'Gifted Hands' about a neurosurgeon who pulled himself out of a gang riddled ghetto to become one of the best surgeons of all time. Another book I thought highly of was a' Child Called It.'A true story of how a boy over came some of the worst abuse ever done to a child.

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