My Bearded Friend

Recently, I was in the library on my laptop searching, researching, pining for a miracle and so forth. I like the library because I enjoy being around books. I like the smell of them and I like how smart I feel when I gaze through them. As a matter of fact, yes I’m still writing one. As a kid, my mom brought my brothers and me to the library in the summertime and I’m certain that’s when my smell of books fetish began. I wasn’t much of a reader as a child. Always a writer, but reading wasn’t thing I fancied. Not until I became an adult did I appreciate literary works that took me away from a bad day at work or a nasty stranger’s attitude.

I made a new friend at the library. I don’t know his name, never got it. I will call him my bearded friend. I was in a small conference room with all glass walls and door by myself for a while. It was enjoyable. I noticed an older man with a long gray beard walking up to the door. He looked at the paper taped to it and then he walked away. I didn’t think anything of it. A few minutes later, he walks into the room and proceeds to sit with what I thought was a laptop, but later I found out it was his bible. If you know me, you know I don’t meet strangers, so the bearded man and I became acquainted right away.
He said,” Would you mind if we sit here?” He had a bit of a grin that I could see through his beard. I said, “Sure! I don’t mind at all.” Then it dawned on me maybe he reserved the room for his group of friends. I asked him if he reserved the room and he said yes, but I could stay if I wanted. I told him I didn’t mind moving.

As I was gathering my things, we chatted. He told me he belonged to a small Bible study group of three people. He called it Bible study and learning. I assumed he meant they were taking a class about a particular subject. My bearded friend was very proud to tell me about his class. He told me he learned to read about a year and a half ago and got his GED. I didn’t ask him is age, but I’m guessing late 50s, early 60s. He was so proud of himself and rightfully so. The other people in his group are a teacher and another gentleman who also learned to read. The three of them chose the Bible to keep learning to read. An excellent choice I think. I congratulated him. Because of his successes, he is a wonderful testimony to what God can do. He said, “I’m a minister.” I said,” Really?” My bearded friend says, “We’re all ministers.” Oh! Yeah! We are, aren’t we?

My bearded friend said he used to be ashamed of his illiteracy, but he wasn’t bothered by it anymore. I understood his feelings and respectfully I let him disclose his life to me. I am honored he trusted me enough to chat about his journey. In his youth he worked in tobacco fields to help his family so he didn’t get to attend much school. My father told me about people, namely young men and why they didn’t go to school years ago because of their families raised tobacco. My father and his brothers worked in tobacco as well. I’m sure many people from decades ago sacrificed a basic education to help keep a roof over their families’ heads and food on the table. Certainly any teenage boy would rather be fishing or playing baseball instead of sweating in a field for little to no pay. These young souls may not have gotten an education, but they developed character and work ethic that took them places in life just the same, if not better.

My bearded friend didn’t seem to hold on to any resentment about his childhood circumstances. He commented that it’s just the way things were back then. His voice was actually very soothing and calm during our conversation. My assumption is that is his nature as well. We said our goodbyes as his other two friends arrived.

I couldn’t help but think about my bearded friend and his freedom from illiteracy. I take reading for granted, like breathing. Being human, I tend to think about what I can’t do or don’t have. Meeting my bearded friend made me realize I have very few limitations except the ones I’ve given myself. What’s more profound is the thought of people sacrificing a basic education and a youthful life with the idea they may never learn to read or write. Yet, they are blessed many years down the road with the education they so deserve. The bearded man is my hero. He’s so awesome.

The underlying moral to this story is also patience. Sometimes its patience with expectancy. Sometimes its patience for something you can’t see or imagine. Being educated may have always been a dream of my bearded friend that kept him going and gave him hope. He definitely had a fire in him to pursue his dream and when the time came, he made it happen. Now, let’s ask ourselves. Am I the bearded man with a dream or a goal that I’ve been patient for and do I have a fire in me now? One day we’re going be the bearded man and we will have a youthful eye looking at us as we tell our story? Sure, there’s a generation just waiting to be motivated by our experiences.

But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Romans 8:25
And endurance produces character, and character produces hope. Romans 5:4
And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9