One of my favourite things to do with my time is to read. I love reading. And I read everything. From crime thrillers to autobiographies to newspapers to textbooks, to online articles, to really long Facebook posts, to books on every topic under the sun, from philosophy, to finance to fossil fuels to food, to family planning. 

I discover new worlds between the covers of books, magazines and newspapers. The biggest benefit of my insatiable appetite for reading, however, is the wonderful things it does for my vocabulary. Now, the truth is, I wasn’t born with a passion for reading. No. For that, I have to thank Elsie Gyekye and a rather embarrassing incident that happened in Primary School.

I was six years old when I went to class 2, so I was the youngest kid in my class, and I had a huge crush on a girl named Elsie, who was the tallest girl in the class (so yes, I’ve been punching above my weight since I was a child). Our teacher, Mrs Akwesi, was very strict.

She would give us passages to read, then she would pick some of us at random to spell tricky words from the passage. Now, Elsie was a shy kid. She didn’t talk much and kept to herself most of the time. I thought she was amazing though – a tall dark angel, who could do no wrong in my eyes. Until one day, when Mrs Akwesi pointed to her at random and asked her to spell “tongue”.

Now Elsie was a smart kid, but I think she was caught completely off-guard, because instead of spelling “tongue”, she just stood up and burst into tears. I was in shock. How could my gracious, composed, dignified angel be crying like a baby? It was bad.

All I could hear above her sobs was the deep voice of Mrs Akwesi bellowing, “this is what happens when you don’t read!” Now, I don’t know what it was about that scene and how it played out, but somehow, in my six-year-old brain, the message I got was that I must never let this happen to me! I resolved to start reading, and never stop.

Now, this incident was Elsie’s moment of hardship, not mine, but it still served as a learning moment for me. Today, it occurs to me that, as individuals, we don’t often take advantage of the learning value in other people’s experiences. Ecclesiastes Chapter 1, Verse 9 says, “That which has been is that which will be, And that which has been done is that which will be done. So there is nothing new under the sun.

This is the Bible’s way of telling us to pay attention to the stories of others. The answers to our prayers have often been given to others, and all we have to do is just pay attention to other people’s ordeals and extract our solutions from their stories.

Are you going through difficulties in your work, your studies, your business, or your family life? Do you think you’re the first to have such problems? Do you know there are other people out there, whose experiences and stories could provide you with the key to unlocking your own conundrums?

As a nation, we have problems. Some of them are old, recurring problems for which solutions have evaded us since the birth of our nation (import dependence, debt, corruption, IMF, flooding). We keep looking for new ideas to solve these old problems. But there is nothing new under the sun. Other nations have been through these difficulties and overcome them. Perhaps we need to pay attention to their moments of hardship to extract our learning moments.

Today, I find myself in a job that requires me to spend hours and hours reading, a job which demands that I express ideas in more than one way, with more than one word. God, in His infinite wisdom, gave me what I needed to do this job back when I was six years old – long before I even knew I’d want a job like this – and He gave it to me through someone else’s teachable moment. So naturally, I’m grateful to God, and to Elsie Gyekye for bursting into tears that day … all because of the word “tongue”.

My name is Kojo Yankson, and, as Uncle Ebo Whyte once said, “Only a fool learns from his own experiences”. Need I say more?

Good Morning, GHANAFO!