Words are usually gateways to emotions. With them we do not only communicate and express our feelings, but we also relate important events, expose people’s inner characters, and show difference in personalities among the human race. All this, is achieved through the power of the word. But what if this word power becomes capable of changing human beings’ destinies?How about if one single word shapes the whole future of a person? Imagine if a few letters cause someone to succeed or fail, to earn money or stay penniless. Yes, just one word can make someone’s life at stake. Either it shifts it to a better world or it keeps it in a miserable one. This story I am going to tell demonstrates what I just said.
It was a late summer night, just a few hours before he sits for a final written test; Noureddine was deeply submerged in his thoughts, worries and prayers. If he succeeds, he would be able to teach in a primary school. If not, add some more years of depression to his youth. It was not what he aspired for, but since joblessness was at its peak and getting a job was like finding a treasure island, he did not hesitate to postpone, at least for a period of time, the dream of his life.
While lying in bed he was wondering and asking himself strange questions, such as; who is responsible for my current situation? Is it destiny or the government? Or is it simply, a matter of luck? Why am I still jobless? Confusion bewildered him and kept him awake, but in spite of all this, Noureddine had a sense of hope, a strong faith that it was all meant to be. He was convinced that his belief, both in God, and in himself, will lead him sooner or later, where he always desired to be.
“Life is all about a test”, he finally resolved.
In the midst of the dark, at that moment, and all of a sudden he decided to send a text to a university English professor, he knew before he graduated, to inform him about this event. Noureddine wrote a few words to Noureddine. Coincidentally, it happened they had the same first names. The former, a passionate student, the latter a professional university English teacher. As if he wanted to announce his utter sorrow to the man who inspired him the most. It was like a death sentence, when typing those letters on the screen of his cell, he felt like he was sure he was going to get life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. He could not believe what some people call reality and some others call fate. What he was experiencing appeared like a mere fantasy, a horrible nightmare.
The reality or the fate of becoming an elementary school teacher was haunting him like a ghost. His dad does this trade too. Maybe this was one of the reasons he hated to do it. Well, that was a different story. The main thing was that he had a choice between treading upon the footsteps of his father or treading upon the streets of his hometown, idling away time with a bunch of idiots. Thus he did, he told his teacher he was going to sit for an exam the next day. But, the latter did not write back; it was too late at night to wake up and text, the former presumed.
The next day, sheets were distributed in a high school named after the first president of the republic of Tunisia. School “Habib Bourguiba” in the province of sin on the east coast: Sousse. Noureddine, before he starts working on his paper, was told that the president of the country spent his high school years in this very building. This made him feel privileged and it was like a good sign or good luck for him. It is strange how he was happy and sad at the same time. Happy to stop the cycle of being penniless, valueless, and sad to teach kids in the mountains.
The text was an excerpt from the opening chapter of Thomas Hardy’s “Jude the Obscure.” He always loved that novel. The hostility of the universe against the individual was a major theme in it. Jude did believe but didn't achieve. He ceased to exist in a tragic way before he even realizes his dreams.
Questions were answered smoothly, grammar was dealt with easily. Everything was fine until the ‘monster word’ came up at the last part of the test. The essay was a short sentence question. In it, a word startled him. Grasping its meaning seemed impossible. He could not fathom, whatsoever, the slightest implication of that word. Unfortunately, without understanding its meaning he wouldn’t be able to go any further, he wouldn’t even be able to spell a single letter.
The essay question run thus: “Jane is a nine-year old girl. She suffers from dyslexia. How would you help her”? Upon seeing the word, Noureddine immediately panicked and didn’t know what to do about the ‘monster word’. A long shiver of fear flowed over his body. “Dyslexia” was like a riddle to him.
At the start, he thought of different possibilities. The word “suffered” prompted the assumption that the girl had a physical or emotional pain. He endeavored to ask other students for assistance, but sadly enough, nobody had a glimpse of the meaning, or at least, each had a different explanation. And usually when you hear different definitions of one word, you get confused and you don’t trust any of them.
“Oh Lord make haste to help me,” he utters in despair. His competence turned useless, and a divine manifestation had become a necessity. Time was expiring and with each minute passing he sinks more and more into grievance. Supplication was not rejected and deliverance was hastened at last. The English professor’s image popped into his brain and flashed in front of his eyes.
“Yes,” he yelled silently. Noureddine took secretly his cell out, texted the teacher in seven words:
“What is the meaning of the word dyslexia?”
By the time the text was sent, the classroom supervisor noticed the phone. He hurried towards him and said:
“Give me the phone.”
The student shut it off, looked into the super intender’s eyes, and replied in a confident and assuring voice :
“No sir, it is shut. I am not using it… it is shut… I am not using it.” He was overlooked in suspicion. Fifteen more minutes passed, the electronic device is still shut, the time is running and life is at stake.
-Sir, I have to smoke, I cannot think properly, he uttered. Given permission to walk outside the classroom, the device was turned on, the cigarette was lit and the merciful words: “ The difficulty of reading a language.” were shown on the screen.
Back to his seat full of joy and relief, he began solving the puzzle and finding solutions to assist the nine-year-old girl. He pinned down solutions that would permit her overcome the suffering caused by the “monster word”.
Dyslexia was both Jenny’s and the student’s problem. But, after disclosing its meaning sentences filled the paper, thanks and praises were given to God, the teacher and in particular to the power of the written word; its miracle in shaping one’s life and in completely transforming Noureddine’s fate.