The Man with the Magic Slate

Here is an excerpt from “Writing to Change the World” written by Mary Pipher. Beautiful. Poignant. Powerful.

“A few years ago, I visited a market on the Burmese border. It was a profoundly unsettling experience. I walked past frightened, impoverished people hawking Leonardo DiCaprio beach towels, dried fish, Nike knockoffs, and counterfeit cigarettes. [..] Everyone in this tawdry market seemed almost comatose with inertia and grief. Gradually, I realized the underlying cause of what I was witnessing: the absence of hope.”

“However, one man was different. He squatted in the gutter, almost naked, selling children’s Magic Slates. As I walked by, he quickly scrawled on his display pad “Freedom from Fear,” which is the motto of Aung San Suu Kyi, who is the daughter of a former leader in Burma. A Western-educated exile, Kyi returned to Burma to work for the restoration of democracy. And while she currently is under house arrest there, her ideas have kept hope alive for the citizens of that beleaguered country.”

“I looked at the words the man had written on the little plastic slate and then into his eyes. He smiled at me–a fierce, desperate smile–and then he quickly erased what he had written. This man had almost been silenced. But he made a leap. He dared to make a connection with a westerner. He used heroic words to carve out a Magic Slate-sized piece of freedom, which he then shared with me. I have never felt more honored and more humbled. When I think of people writing to connect, I think of the man with the Magic Slate. I write for him.”

Author: Susan Ople

Susan "Toots" Ople is the President of the Blas F. Ople Policy and Training Institute. She's an OFW and labor advocate based in the Philippines.

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