I walk into Westfield library on Monday afternoon to tutor a few of my students. All the study rooms were taken, so I sat down at a table in the adult common area, put my headphones in and started my Facetime session with my first student.
Even though my headphones were in, I could still hear most of the conversation next to me, another person doing a remote tutoring session. Our roles were flipped though; she was the student and I was the tutor.
Her tutor would dictate a sentence and she would say each word as she wrote it, and then correct it. This format repeated for about an hour, as the student would comment about words that were difficult, or praise herself for long words spelled correctly.
After both of our sessions were over, we had a short conversation. She rushed into the heart of her story without skipping a beat; “I’m 60 years old, and just learning how to spell and write. I didn’t learn how to read until I was in my 30’s.”
I smiled and just said, “You’re really brave.”
She asked me what it’s like to be a tutor and thanked me for the work that I do. My next student came and prematurely cut off our conversation, and yet this everyday conversation marked me.
It was simple, and yet time seemed to hover a move a little more slowly than usual. This woman told me that she was writing a book about her story with learning disabilities, and how she got through school without really knowing how to read or write.
In my line of work, I’m aware of how many children and adults can’t read; so her story didn’t surprise me. Yet what marked me was how she had embraced her limitation–and yet was desiring to give her creativity to the world, in a way that was most difficult to her.
I’m a better person for meeting her, even though I don’t even know her name.
The tenacity with which she knows that she has something to say to the world is contagious. And she wants to find her voice now. And she knows that it’s not too late.
May we all know that it’s never too late to find our voices.