I recently reviewed the book LIFE IS SO GOOD (link), but I decided to write some more of my reflections about the book. It is a very meaningful experience to read this account of the life of George Dawson. I hope you will take it up sometime. Oh, and there are some stories from the book below, maybe considered ‘spoiler alerts’! – John
I recently read a book entitled Life Is So Good, written by George Dawson and Richard Glaubman. It is the true story of George Dawson’s journey through the twentieth century. He was the grandson of a slave, born in Mississippi, and grew up near Marshall, Texas.
“Life is so good and it gets better every day.” –George Dawson
There was one thing about Dawson’s life that seemed to attract the most attention. As the oldest son in his family, he didn’t get to go to school because he had to work on the family farm. His family was large and times were tough. His father, unable to feed the family on his meager earnings, took 12 year old George to a neighboring farm and left him there to be a field hand. He would come once a week and collect the wages his son had earned (less than two dollars). Because of their circumstances, George never learned to read. He found a way to make it though life without reading, though it was very difficult. So at age 98, George went back to school and learned to read.
An elementary school teacher, Richard Glaubman, read a news story about George learning to read at such an advanced age. He told his class about this remarkable man and they had so many questions! Richard decided to get in touch with George to see if he would answer the children’s questions. This began a friendship that over the next few years resulted in the book, Life Is So Good.
Do you think that George’s life sounds “good”? It certainly doesn’t mean that everything that happens is good. Nor does it mean we are always pleased with the outcome of our decisions and circumstances. It does mean that we have an attitude that looks above the difficulties to see the bigger picture. What are some lessons I gathered from George Dawson’s life?
“People forget that a picture ain’t made from just one color. life ain’t all good or all bad. It’s full of everything.” – George Dawson
No one’s life is all good, or all bad. Once when George was asked about how difficult life was, he said, “People forget that a picture ain’t made from just one color. life ain’t all good or all bad. It’s full of everything.” George’s young life was influenced by the lynching of a childhood friend falsely accused of touching a white woman. He doesn’t shy away from the realities of his own life, both good or bad. He keeps his sights set, however, on the good.
Our attitude toward others cannot be determined by them, but only by us. George endured humiliating racism, had to learn his way through the complexity of living in a Jim Crow era, and learned the hard way that some people who pretend to be your friend really aren’t. But amazingly he doesn’t say anything negative about the people he met in his life that were cruel or deceptive. He realized early on, I think, the life is full of everything and you can see the good or the bad.
There is something to be said for someone who is willing to work. George Dawson worked for more than seven decades. Some of his jobs included breaking horses, driving spikes for the railroads, building levees on the Mississippi, and laboring on farms and in a sawmill.
George Dawson died in 2001 at the age of 103. In reflecting on his life, he said, “Son, people think one hundred years is a long time. Most folks just don’t understand. My life hasn’t been so long at all; seems short to me. It’s all gone by so fast. Life is so good and it gets better every day.” What a beautiful spirit.