The past several weeks I’ve really been thinking and praying about ways in which I can better empathize with my students and others who deal daily with the challenge of illiteracy. That is, what does it feel like to stare blankly at a restaurant menu? To be overwhelmed by the note that you child’s teacher has sent home from school? To not be able to read the author much less the title of the book that your friend just gave you? To realize, again, that you owe more taxes than you thought because you were unable to understand the form? To know that the debt your family is currently burdened with will only continue to grow because you’ll never have the skills necessary to apply for the promotion at work? To work constantly to cover up your struggle with reading so that you won’t be ‘found out’? To be unable to to surf the web? To be unable to read the brochure your doctor gave you to better understand the illness you’re battling? To have no choice but to take your pastor’s, politician’s or colleague’s word for it because you can’t seek out the truth on your own? To be part of a society that’s largely unaware of just how many people there are like you who struggle to read? The answers to these questions are of such scale and scope that I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to fully grasp their magnitude. But, I want to try.

So, I’ve decided to give up reading and writing during the season of Lent(February 17-April 3). Monday-Saturday for the next several weeks I will not read or write barring that which is required to do my job and navigate any emergencies that might come my way. The list of things I’ll be unable to do during this time is a little long so I’ll share the list of the things I can do:

  • read and write when tutoring my students
  • receive and return phone calls
  • drive to restaurants and locations I can get to by memory
  • listen to audio books and audio Bibles
  • watch TV and movies

Since I won’t be able to document my experiences in written form during the week, I’ll record my thoughts and observations verbally. Keeping with Lenten tradition, on Sundays I’ll be able to read and write so I plan to blog then about what occurred, the emotions I experienced, the challenges I faced, etc.

I have a group of incredible friends and family that are graciously supporting me in this endeavor by communicating with me differently over the next few weeks to accommodate my ‘illiteracy.’ The invitation stands for them to share their experiences here via a comment or as guest blogger as illiteracy isn’t a self-contained issue; it has an affect on you, those around you and the community at large.

While this endeavor will be far from perfect my hope is that all of this will make me more mindful and prayerful of those who are permanently in this situation, that the sharing of my experience will bring some tangibility and humanity to this issue and that compassion and community involvement will grow as a result.

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