If I talk a lot about reading, it’s probably because of the life changing encounters I have had with great books.
One incident that particularly stands out happened two decades ago. I was about eight years old at the time. At that early age, I had started reading books like Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe, How You Can Be Led by the Spirit of God by Kenneth E. Hagin and Macbeth by William Shakespeare. While I got some of the books from friends, the bulk of my reading material came from my dad’s library.
Sometime in 1996, dad fell sick – and those were the days when people believed that the teacher’s reward is in heaven. So teachers were poorly paid. Teachers are still not being paid well but it was worse then. At the time that dad fell sick, their salary had not been paid for several months and they did not have other viable streams of income – so we simply didn’t have money. We produced most of our food, barely surviving on mangos and pawpaw which grew in our backyard together with maize and cassava which we cultivated on our farm. Occasionally, we would take a few cups of rice and beans on credit from Iya Bolanle who sold provisions across the street.
Given that situation, taking dad to the hospital was out of the question – we simply couldn’t afford it. He had begun to experience involuntary movements of the diaphragm accompanied by a rapid closure of the glottis. It was as though he was going to cough out his heart. In layman’s language, he was having serious hiccups – at a rate of two or three spasms per second. Most people have this experience just before giving up the ghost. So you can imagine how scared we were! But we couldn’t take him to the hospital because no one would lend us money and hospitals don’t treat on credit – not even the missionary hospitals (If you have any information to the contrary, please let me know).
Mum is a very spiritual woman. As she prayed and pondered, I imagine God asking her, “What do you have in the house?” All of a sudden, she remembered we weren’t that poor after all. We had an extensive library – that’s a wealth of knowledge which we could not exhaust in a lifetime! So, at her prompting, we rummaged through the shelves and brought out two books: Health and Safety for You and Family Health. We started looking through the index of each book to see if we could find any useful information on hiccups. You can imagine our excitement when we found that one of the books had the information we were looking for. And to make the good news even better, the solution was within our reach – he only needed to eat two teaspoons of granulated sugar!
We can talk of William Kamkwamba who turned Malawi around and became a global figure using what he learnt from a Physics textbook in the local library. How about Peter J. Daniels who went on to became a raving success through personal study after being told that he could never amount to anything? Many people rave about the Bill Gates’ “dropout” story which is actually fallacious. Let’s even assume that Bill Gates was indeed a dropout. Is it the fact of being a dropout that made him successful? Have you read what his father said about his insatiable curiosity and voracious appetite for books from a very young age?