This morning I went to my allergist for my allergy shot, but I was a bit alarmed that my right eye and right side of my mouth were drooping and felt weird, so my allergist examined me and told me he thinks it’s Bell’s palsy. He told me to go to my primary care doctor or ER, because they’ll want to do an MRI. So, I went from there to my primary care doctor. Usually these days I sit and read on my phone or tablet, but my eyes are bothering me, so I decided to pick up a Reader’s Digest magazine sitting on the table. I started to read a delightful story, but my doctor saw me so fast that I didn’t get to finish it. My doctor’s diagnosis is Bell’s palsy. Weird to have one eye not want to move & my mouth feel stuck on one side, but my doctor told me in most people the paralysis goes away.
Tonight, I searched for that story and I located the same story at The New Yorker and finished reading it. The story is about several topics that are near and dear to my heart – letter-writing, pen pals, and reading encyclopedias. And what is more inspiring than a story about someone in poverty working hard to become self-educated?
This true story is titled, The Encyclopedia Reader, written by Daniel A. Gross. The story is about the unlikely friendship between a prison inmate, who writes to an encyclopedia editor about an error in the encyclopedia. Without giving away the rest of the story, here is how the prison inmate described his education in school:
“Eventually, the school transferred him to a special-education program. As he progressed through the grades, Woods says, instead of learning to read and write, he was given chores like collecting attendance slips and stacking milk in the cafeteria refrigerator. These tasks earned him mostly A’s and B’s. “Now, of course, I didn’t learn nothing,” he said. In high school, whenever a teacher asked him to read aloud, Woods would put his head on his desk in shame. “They say it takes a community to raise a child,” he told me. “It takes one to destroy a child, too.” Woods dropped out of school.”
Definitely go read this story. You’ll be glad you did. If this encyclopedia editor and a prison inmate could not only find some common ground, but actually strike up a friendship that began in 2004 with a letter and they finally met in 2016, then there is hope for all of America to find some common ground.
Update: Well, here’s another inspiring piece at National Review to end January: