Nobody has all of the answers. Everyone, regardless of how the challenges are categorized, struggles in their own way.
What is most important is how a person responds to their difficulties. While some take up the challenge to overcome their situation, others allow it to define them.
Norman Brown, 47, was the latter. Then, tired of accepting it as his lot in life, he recently decided to become the former.
After nearly five decades of avoiding social situations, job applications, and movie subtitles, Brown finally sought the help he needed.
Norman Brown, a 47-year-old man from California, decided to hire a tutor to teach him how to read.
The U.S. Department of Education estimates that approximately 32 million Americans don’t know how to read. After 47 years of difficulty, Brown decided he no longer wanted to be one of them.
Remarkably, Norman Brown made it all the way to the 10th grade without learning how to read.
“Back then they sort of set you aside. I don’t know how I got to the 10th grade,” Brown said to CNN. “This is insane that I went so far in school.”
Brown said he fell behind students as early as elementary school. When nobody taught him how to read, he learned to avoid situations where someone might learn his deepest secret.
“If the kids found out you couldn’t read, you’re done,” Brown said. “Anywhere you go, they’re going to pick on you.”
For years, Brown asked friends to fill out basic paperwork for him. He recalled avoiding Scrabble at parties, and struggling to find a job.
He drove to the Kern Literacy Council and met a man identified only as Ed. Brown signed on for weekly tutoring classes, and after four years of diligent effort and patience, his abilities steadily improved.
Brown now owns his own business, something he said would have been impossible otherwise.
It took a humbling leap of faith for Brown to admit he didn’t know how to read, but now he is glad that he did.
Now that he is able to read and write, Brown has managed to launch his own business repairing and restoring classic cars. His auto body shop is doing well, and is the most obvious benefit of his newly-learned skill.
“Four years of tutoring and now the sky is the limit!” said Brown. “Step aside because I’m coming through.”
For the nearly half-century old reader, the book still provides a few challenges. He occasionally stops, stutters, and mispronounces words, but his effort is what matters most.
Brown might drive a flashy car, a classic Ford Model T, but he checks his ego at the door of the Kern Literacy Council. For those who say “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” Norman Brown is out to prove them wrong.