Christmas Gifts For A 1 1 2 Year Old Boy Turning Disadvantage Into a Gift – A Personal Story

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Turning Disadvantage Into a Gift – A Personal Story

Our family was very poor. I was the oldest of four boys and my parents rented a house for $15 a month. There was electricity, but we didn’t have a refrigerator. We all used the equipped outhouse from last year’s Eaton catalog. We didn’t have a car, but Dad cycled to work and somehow supported the six of us.

Then my father was sent to the Arctic to work for a year. One year turned into two, and when he was finally on his way home, the plane crashed and he was gone. I had just finished 4th grade. We moved to another small town in Ontario closer to my mom’s family, and my mom did some sewing to support us.

There was, however, a positive side to this rather dark beginning: I learned very early on that it was up to me to have something or to do something. I was mowing lawns at six and growing and peddling vegetables at seven. I worked 5 summers on an uncle’s farm, driving a team of horses during haymaking and stoking the sheaths during harvest. At nine o’clock I was driving the tractor pulling the combine harvester. There were a lot of jobs between 6 and 18 when I went to college. Once I made a to-do list and it took me a whole sheet of paper.

The gift is that I developed a strong work ethic very early in life.

The school presented other challenges. When I was in grades 1 and 2 at the four-room elementary school I first attended, the teacher called me and another boy “the slow ones.” It was humiliating and frustrating, but I held on. Arithmetic and reading were difficult subjects for both of us. By fourth grade, my grades were improving, although I still couldn’t add and reading was very difficult. Reading out loud was a total humiliation.

In high school, my grades were usually pretty good, but in my senior year of high school, 13th grade, I had trouble keeping up with the reading. In this case, the public library had a new librarian who happened to be a specialist in reading. The school made an appointment for me to see her. She gave me a long series of tests and at the end she said to me: “What are you doing in 13th grade?… You read at 4th grade level.

After graduating from university, I had the opportunity to take a new test. I tested at the 10th grade level. It was a few decades later before the problem was diagnosed: I was extremely dyslexic. It took over a decade after that before I found someone who could handle it. I am no longer dyslexic.

If you’re wondering how the reading disability of dyslexia could be a gift, I’m not surprised. I’ve spent much of my adult life reading… one word at a time. At school, this meant that I had to understand the textbook the first time I read it, because I would never have time to read it again. It was a valuable skill, but it wasn’t the greatest gift.

The greatest gift of my reading disability was that I learned to listen. I got good grades because I listened to teachers and professors, no matter how boring some of them were.

Now, years later, as a psychologist, I hear what people tell me; I know how to listen. For a long time I thought anyone could do it, but reports from clients and others have led me to suspect that the ability to connect and listen isn’t universal among IT professionals. ugly.

Incidentally, I met this other “slow” years later. He told me that he and I were the only two in that 1st and 2nd grade class who went to college. He was a professor of physics at the University of Waterloo and I was a professor of psychology at the University of Guelph.

I invite you to look back on your life for your own handicaps or shortcomings, and for times when you felt disadvantaged. Then look for the gifts that each has been able to produce in your life.

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