Recently I was talking to a friend, Marsha Warner, who has been a real support to coach me to get my house organized. There are those times in our lives when we have to stop and regroup and toss some of the items that we no longer need. She has been a real support in this process.
After a long chat, she said, “I am still going to press you to do the one thing that I think is most important in your life and that is to write your history.” So I have decided to write about angels in my life.
I love the Chinese Proverb that says, “When the student is ready the teacher will appear.” That is what happened when I went to college.
I was never very good at reading. I had struggled with that all my school years. In high school I can remember reading one book and then using that book for all my book reports.
In college, the struggle just got worse. Reading , writing and spelling had always plagued me, but in college it just seemed to get more intense. I had been in the bottom reading group through my years in school. When I got to BYU, I went to the reading lab for help. After the lady gave me a test she came out and said, “I do not think that you will make it through college. You just do not read well enough.”
At the BYU bookstore where I worked, it was my responsibility to assist the blind students in finding their books. I knew that they had to have someone read to them because none of the books were in Braille. When I thought about them and their situation, a thought came to me. I could get my mother and dad to come from Salt Lake on the weekends and read to me. I talked to them and they agreed to help me.
I developed a system for managing my most difficult classes at the Y. I would go to the class every day, then read as much of the text as I could. When I took the first test, I would evaluate the test as to whether it came from the text or the lectures. If most of it came from the lectures, I would stop reading the text and focus on the lectures.
Mother, Dad and my youngest brother Clyde would often come to Provo and help me on the weekends. I even remember one time I talked my father into assisting me in writing one of my papers. He was a college graduate and when I got the paper back we only got a C-.
Little by little I got through each class. School took me five years instead of four. After graduating, I got a job teaching Home Economics at Orem Jr. High. I did not have to do a lot of reading. Much of what I did was to demonstrate how to cook, sew, and do activities in the home.
After teaching for a couple of years, I decided that it would be great to go back to BYU and take the classes that I wanted to. I knew that I would have to improve my reading before attempting to go back.
One of my roommates was taking a reading class. I decided that I could pay whatever I needed to in order to get help to read better. I called the number of the office for the instructor of her class. I was told that he was going on sabbatical, but there was another instructor there that taught the same classes. His name was Dr. Jim Dunn. He invited me to come to his lab and to take a test. After the test he said that he could help me if I would come each Saturday morning 10 AM and work with him.
He went through the basics of reading with me. I learned all the sounds of the letters of the alphabet. I would go home and find places where I could be alone and practice my assignments. I did not want to tell any of my roommates or friends that I was taking reading lessons. After several weeks, I began to get Young Readers’ books and apply my new skills. Reading got better and better to the point that I applied to get into a Masters Program and was accepted.
After two more years of struggling through school, I graduated from BYU with a Masters in Education. At that point my mother begged me not to go on to get my Ph.D.
I went on to write my first book from some of the material that I had written for my thesis. The book was entitled Roughing it Easy. Rick Bailey the man responsible for publicity for the BYU Press where my book was published pitched it to the Tonight Show. To all of our amazement, it was accept and I was on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson on June 5, 1975. Right after the interview, the book soared to the top of the New York Time Best seller list and sold over a million copies.
Without my good parents Julian and Norene Thomas and Dr. Jim Dunn, I know that I would not have had many of the wonderful opportunities that have come into my life. They are truly angels that reach back to pull me forward. Remember “when the student is ready the teacher will appear.” What ever it is that you want to do in your life go for it. People will come into you life to help you reach your goals.