Actions Louder Than Words

the-biker-manPhoto by Michael DeLeon

MY BAD:  I accidentally deleted this post. I put it back up again, but the comments have been vaporized by the “Gnary Dude.”

To those of you who left a comment, I will not be able to reply, but I do thank you very much. I think at least once a month, you have to have a mind freeze and do something stupid; it lets you know that you’re human after all:~)

Scary Man

While standing in the ticket line, my friend and I discussed which movie to see. After deciding on the action flick, my friend went to get popcorn and I waited on a bench near the theater of our chosen movie. While waiting, I noticed a man standing nearby.

I try not to make rash judgments about people but to be honest, this man made me nervous. He was in his fifties, dressed in black leather and there were chains hanging from his clothes. He was scary and reminded me of one of the Hells Angels. When I looked directly at him he shifted his feet uncomfortably and looked away, but he didn’t leave.

Judging a Book by its Cover

My friend returned with the popcorn and we waited for the theater doors to open. I kept watching this man. He seemed to realize I was feeling nervous and would move away slightly, still keeping us in sight.

My discomfort grew and I finally mentioned him to my friend. We agreed this man looked dangerous and we made a rash decision. This decision taught me an important lesson.

We decided to slip into the other theater and after the lights dimmed, sneak back to the action flick. What was disconcerting was that this man followed us. We put our plan into motion and a few minutes later, with much relief, settled back into our seats at the action flick. I was comforted by knowing we’d left this man in the other theater.

As the credits rolled there was a loud boom. The movie stopped and the emergency lights came on. Everyone was asked to step outside the theater until power could be restored. When I stood up, I saw the biker man sitting behind us! He had followed us yet again and this greatly increased my anxiety.

While we waited for the power to be restored, the biker man stayed close. He caught my eye, smiled and struck up a friendly conversation. I had the feeling he was trying to put us at ease.

Reading Past Judgments

When the power was finally restored, the three of us walked back into the action flick. The biker man settled comfortably into a chair about three rows ahead of us. I didn’t see him after the movie, but he stayed in my mind. Why had he watched us so carefully and why did he follow us?

Later that night I settled down to read my latest library book and that’s when the answer hit me. The biker man could not read. He had heard us discussing the movie we wanted to see. He watched so he would know which theater to go into. He couldn’t read the signs.

I wanted to cry. We hadn’t meant to be cruel, though the assumptions we’d made influenced our actions. We couldn’t look past the leather and chains. If he’d looked less scary we wouldn’t have tricked him by changing theaters.

After that, I learned more about illiteracy. Most people are embarrassed to admit they can’t read. They learn to hide their illiteracy in numerous ways; some never learn to read or write.

Illiteracy in the United States

According to the National Right to Read Association, 42 million American adults can’t read; 50 million are unable to read past the level of a fifth grader. The number of adults classified as functionally illiterate increases by about 2.25 million each year.

I can’t imagine not being able to read – I enjoy it so much. After my experience with the biker man, I promised myself that I would work to bring more attention to the plight of illiteracy. I have accomplished this through my local community. It’s my hope that this story will encourage you or someone you know to do something about illiteracy.

How you can help

Here are some resources that I’ve found and suggestions on how you can help:

  • Donate to literacy programs either nationally or in your community. If there’s not a literacy program in your community, find out how to start one.
  • Consider volunteering as a literacy tutor. Most communities have programs for this. If you live in the United States, here’s a way to find out if your community has a literacy program.

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Have you ever known an adult who couldn’t read or write?

Have you ever helped an adult learn to read and write?

How would you solve the problem of illiteracy?

2010 Calendar Giveaway

I thank everyone who participated in the 2010 Calendar Giveaway. In honor of Jannie, we drew the names from a holiday hat. Sorry Jannie, I didn’t have one with yellow and purple dingle balls:~)  So, without further adieu, I am excited and pleased to announce that the following people were selected:

Jannie

Mike Goad

Serena

Talon

If these people would please email me their address at sara@sarahealy.com, I will send them their original 2010 Calendars:~)