It’s never too late to learn

For as long as I can remember, I have been able to read. I still have “The New Winston Primer,” as well as the “First Reader” and the “Second Reader,” in my library.
“Once a Wee Wee Woman lived in a wee wee house. The Wee Wee Woman had a wee wee bed. By the wee wee bed was a wee wee table. On the wee wee table was a wee wee candle.
“One night, the Wee Wee Woman went to bed. Soon she heard a noise.” And so, the story heightened.
“I loved to reread those books, and their pages are torn and tattered. By the “Second Reader,” I was reading Aesop’s fables, a Hindu Tale, a Russian Fable, a Spanish Fairy Tale, and stories by Hans Christian Anderson.
I was poised for a lifetime of reading. At first, it was fiction and biography, and later mostly non-fiction. I could read road signs and application forms, textbooks, and newspapers. I was a voracious reader.
I can hardly imagine a lifetime without reading. Especially, 98 years of a lifetime. But that’s exactly what happened to George Dawson.
Born in 1898, Dawson was the oldest of five children. His father couldn’t spare him to go to school. He worked with his father in the field until age 12, when he was hired out to a neighbour.
And from age 12 to 21, George Dawson worked to help feed a family of 16. His aunt and uncle had died of the fever and his parents had taken in their nine children.
At age 21 his father told him, “You’ve worked hard to help the family, and now you deserve to keep the money you earn.”
George Dawson set out to see the world but quickly found out just how difficult it is when a person cannot read. In his biography, Dawson said they cheat you out of your wages and they sell you a ticket for one place and give you a ticket to somewhere else.
Dawson was a good worker, and one time he was asked to be a supervisor. It would have meant a large raise in pay and he was excited about it, until his supervisor gave him an application form to fill in.
Ashamed that he couldn’t read, he let go of the promotion.
In spite of his inability to read, Dawson provided very well for his family and all of his children had college educations. Unfortunately, he was forcibly retired at the young age of 65. And for the next 25 years, he gardened and did yard work for pay, until he was actually ready to retire at age 90.
Dawson didn’t like sitting around. But the opportunity of a lifetime came when he was 98 years old and a young literacy worker combed the neighborhood seeking out people who would like to learn to read.
Dawson seized the opportunity. After learning the alphabet in half a day, he went on to read and write. At 101, Dawson, with the help of Richard Glaubman, wrote his autobiography called “Life Is So Good.”
When Dawson died last month at 103, he was working on getting his GED. A month earlier, an autobiographical article by Dawson appeared in Guideposts magazine titled “Never Too Late to Learn.”
So why not assess your life today? Is there something you’ve never been able to do and always wanted to? Follow Dawson’s example. And remember, whatever your age, it’s never too late to learn.
Marie Snider is an award-winning health care writer and syndicated columnist.

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