Gary over to Three Score Plus Ten wrote about an interaction between himself and his grand nephew. Gary admits he is not a computer whiz kid. But when he admitted to his 21 year old nephew he was having problems downloading music, he could tell his nephew was amazed and in his words, "the kid was truly embarrassed for me". Gary went on to say he could tell his nephew was in shock over something everyone should be able to do easily since he had been doing it since basically infant hood.
This made me chuckle. I can remember at age 18, 19, ....shit, that age when you think you have seen it all and know it all. I remember that I was shocked on a regular basis when I met folks who could not do some the things I had been doing since I could remember.
Take swimming for instance. This was one of the early revelations. Having been raised in the water, I assumed everyone had been. Imagine my surprise when I discovered kids my own age who could not swim at all. Not even dog paddle.
Meeting people who never learned to ride a bike still surprises me.
The one that really shook me though was when I met Raymond. I was working that high school summer as a painter with a friend's Grandfather. He would import Raymond from the Smokey Mountain section of North Carolina every summer to paint with his crew. Raymond was I guess, in his late 30s. He was also the best and fastest painter I ever knew. A magician with a paintbrush, a paper brush, or a can of glazing compound. He could paint trim with a 4 inch brush and never touch anything but the finish. He was amazing.
At the end of the summer, Raymond always went home to North Carolina. That summer I was elected to drop him off at the bus station in downtown Washington, DC. Mr B handed me an envelope and told me to give it to Raymond before he got out of the car. On the envelope in large block letters was some code I had no clue of. I guessed Raymond knew. I was right. When I dropped Raymond off, I handed him his envelope. He opened it up and stuffed the cash in his pocket. Then he got out and began walking up and down in front of the row of Greyhound buses. In front of each one, he would stop, look at the envelope and then look at the destination banner at the top of the Bus. His forefinger would move in the air like he was writing.
It suddenly dawned on me that Raymond could not read. He was attempting to match each number on the envelope to each number on the bus. Innocently, I got out of the car and asked him if he wanted my help. He looked embarrassed followed quickly by a flash of anger. "No, I can handle it. You go get out of here now". All the way back to Bethesda I pondered this. I never considered that there could be any adult who could not read. I took reading to be something akin to breathing. We could all do it. Dealing with the idea of a grown man in his 30s not being literate was beyond my comprehension.
Raymond was not stupid. He had a wonderful sense of humor that only an intelligent man could have. His digs and takes often got my brain working in different directions. He was a hard worker who figured out how to survive in a world that had passed his kind by. I found out more about Raymond when I got back from dropping him off. Raised in a two room house with no plumbing in the Smokey Mountains, he was somewhere in the middle of 10 children. Grew up dirt poor and began working as soon as he could lift a hoe. Schoolin was not held in high regard because it did not put food on the table. But obviously the basics of decency and hard work were instilled, because Raymond outworked us all and always did it with a smile. I do not remember him ever uttering a cross word.
I often think of Raymond when I find myself acting superior. The lesson he taught me has served me well. What we know that others don't or what we can do that others can't isn't worth squat in the scheme of who we are or who they are. What matters is how we deal with our own limitations and those we see in others.