I am not a crier, but I needed two hankies yesterday.
I found myself furiously blinking away tears while going nowhere fast on the elliptical at the gym. No, I wasn’t in pain; I was watching a movie on one of the TVs. It was the last 30 minutes of a film that takes place in Kenya. An old man is attending an elementary school. He has fought for Kenya’s independence; been tortured by the British in camps; and now at 80-odd years old, wants to learn how to read.
I got the feeling that this was a true story; and it is. Kimani Maruge enrolled in first grade at the age of 84.
As I watched this old man and his “peers” at the little school in the middle-of-nowhere Kenya, I was reminded of how much we take education for granted in the United States. I complain about having $40K of grad-school debt, but I am lucky enough to have gone to college and enroll in grad school, period. There are hundreds of millions of people on this Earth who don’t know how to READ. It is heartbreaking. Let’s add literacy to my list of causes!
So even though I know how the story ends, I’m going to rent The First Grader to watch the first part.
I turned on ABC News with Diane Sawyer while eating dinner. At the end of the broadcast, there’s a “Person of the Week” segment about everyday people doing good. Last night they highlighted this story: Elliot Shirback is a young man with Down syndrome who lives in upstate NY with his mother. Last month, they were in a store and an asshole said something mean about Elliot. To cheer him up, his mother asked him what he wanted for Christmas. He replied, “One hundred Christmas cards.” She went to Facebook and asked her friends to send cards. The request went viral, and Elliot has received 1,800 Christmas cards. I teared up over the fact that some people are assholes and some people are very kind.
I found the link to Elliot’s mom’s Facebook post here and put a card to Elliot in the mail today.
So the lessons for today, friends: Be grateful for your education and don’t be an asshole.