Finally, reading is da, and I’m going to add another da to that and say reading can be “Da, da!” with a drum roll because reading actually changed my life.
At 42, I applied for a scholarship to the University of St. Thomas (UST) in Houston, Texas. This is a small, private university that sits in the heart of downtown Houston. I had chosen to marry right out of high school instead of attend college – thinking I could go to college anytime. Well, three children later, I longed to be a teacher, but needed that degree to do so. As a teacher’s aide at an elementary school, I was encouraged by fifth grade teacher, Barbara Evans, to apply for a scholarship to UST. I filled out the necessary documents and thought it would never happen.
One day, during cafeteria duty, I was called to the office for a phone call. It seems the scholarship committee at UST was due to meet that week and they needed me to complete some paperwork that very day. My principal insisted that I hurry down to the university. Upon arriving, I found that what they needed was an essay to accompany my application. They asked me to write it right there in the busy, noisy office minus a dictionary, scratch paper, or a computer (it was 1990).
Because this is a liberal arts institution with a heavy emphasis on theology and philosophy, it was no surprise that the essay topic was to compare something I had recently read to one of three philosophers’ statements listed on the essay. Wow! I had never heard of any of the philosophers, but I knew as an avid reader that I would be able to find a book that I could match with one of the statements I was given. I chose Living, Learning, and Loving by Leo Buscaglia: a collection of his essays about choosing to love in this life of ours.
Somehow I turned off my nerves and all of the noise in that busy office, turned over some papers that I had brought with me and used them as scratch paper, and began to write. If I couldn’t spell a word, I chose a synonym that I could spell. When I was done, I revised my work and copied it on to the essay form.
After I turned it in, I thought I would never hear back from them. However, a few days later, I got my letter of acceptance offering me a full scholarship to the university. My three girls were standing beside me as I read the letter out loud and began to cry. The youngest, about eight, hugged me and said it would be okay. The middle one, about 13, said, “Wow, mom you must be so smart.” The oldest, about 15, said, “And we always thought you were so stupid.” That made us all break into laughter.
I know they were each proud of me. I was proud of me, too, and credit my success to “da,da” a love of reading.