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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Reading (01/25/07)

By John de Sousa


Ted brushed his index finger across the page corners of the Bible he had been given by the usher. He’d smiled and thanked the man for the gesture, though his anxiety secretly spiked as he took the book in hand. New places and new faces tended to make Ted nervous to begin with; he’d always felt intimidated at the possibility of rejection or embarrassment. But now this seemingly innocent Bible had pushed the angst level into the orange zone; a solid inch and a half of pages covered with cryptic print that taunted him and threatened to reveal his secret to an entire room of strangers. He tried to throw off his apprehension with mental assurances that no one really cared about his illiteracy. This whole thing was silly. But doubt whispered in his ear, “What if they want you to turn to a verse? What if someone sees that you don’t have a clue what’s written on the page?” He looked around worriedly as others began to file into the room. He hoped no one would sit nearby; then finally covered the Bible with his raincoat as an older couple paused at his row.

As the service started, the song leader greeted the congregation and instructed them to turn to number 107 in the hymnal. Fortunately the older couple had nested several seats away. Ted picked up the book that everyone else was holding and opened it in the middle. His face felt flushed as he bored his vision through the center crease, not daring to raise his head to see whether anyone was watching him. His lips moved ever so slightly as if singing while his thoughts argued angrily inside of him. “This is stupid! Who says I have to sing anyway? What if I could read, but just didn’t know the song? Nobody would care! Stop worrying and just enjoy the service.” But his fears answered quickly “Admit it Ted. You’re the one who’s stupid. Even the children in here know how to read. Even the children . . . !” He choked off the last argument with a wave of indignation. “I am not going to feel threatened by a bunch of kids! I’m a grown man and I’ve done alright with what I’ve got. It’s not my fault I don’t know this song. They ought to be singing something everybody knows anyhow!”

The singing finally ended and was followed by a series of announcements; Vacation Bible School, a ham and oyster dinner; a car wash for the food bank. He wondered what might be in the bulletin that they hadn’t mentioned. He’d have to bring it home for his sister to read. He laid it on top of his coat which was on top of the Bible, safely hidden from sight. He never cared for announcements anyway. They just didn’t seem “spiritual”, and he always wound up forgetting them besides.

After a few minutes the preacher walked up to the pulpit and placed his notes on the lectern. Just as Ted anticipated, he instructed the church to turn to a particular passage; some ancient name from the Old Testament. “Just to the right of Proverbs” said the pastor. “If you see Isaiah, you’ve gone too far!” Ted just tilted his head and nodded, leaving the coat where it was, as the preacher launched into his exhortation. Ted noticed the older couple scribbling notes from time to time. He briefly thought about how over-zealous that seemed. “They should just sit back and listen; just absorb the message and let the Holy Ghost bring it to mind if they need it. He doubted they ever read the notes anyway. But somewhere in his emotions a subtle yearning to do what they did wafted silently by.

The preacher began to wrap up his teaching. “What is the end of the matter? Fear God and keep His commandments! But how can we keep them if we don’t know what they are? How can they change us if we never open the Bible to understand what the Lord requires? This Word is our daily bread. It is our life and our sustenance. We need to eat and breathe and live this Word if we are to lay hold of the meaning of life!”

Ted lowered his head and sighed.

Forty-four million American adults are functionally illiterate, in a land where there are more Bibles than anywhere else in the world, and no punishment for possessing one.

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This article has been read 514 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Bonnie Way02/02/07
Neat story - brings out something we don't often think about.
Julie Arduini02/02/07
Nicely done, good message.
cindy yarger02/03/07
Powerful message here. Our frailties, our judgements, what we see as indifference in others, our hiding. You've churned up a lot - good job! No matter where we "fall" in this story it is only the TRUTH that will set any of us free and it is that same TRUTH that will allow us to show others that freedom as well. I've gotten preachy in my note but I wanted you to know that I got something out of your piece!
julie wood02/07/07
Beautiful story! The vivid descriptions brought this character to life for me--I could see and feel his anguish, as well as visualize the people in the church around him, especially the older couple "nesting" nearby.
Powerful message as well, and I was also grabbed by the title--anything with a personal name sparks my curiosity!