Gabriel's Horn, Pastor George Weaver, March 2012

posted Feb 25, 2012, 10:47 AM by Lois Kerchner   [ updated Feb 25, 2012, 10:47 AM ]

Maintaining a Positive Outlook

 Life Is So Good is an autobiographical sharing of various interesting incidents from someone whose life spanned the whole of the 20th century. George Dawson was born in 1898, the grandson and great grandson of slaves from Mississippi. Following the Civil War when they were no longer in slavery, his family moved to the vicinity of Marshall, Texas to take advantage of the government’s provision of 40 acres and a mule for former slaves. For various reasons George Dawson was never able to get a formal education, so for the  first 98 years of his life he could not read or write.


In the last decade of his life when he was already in his 90’s, Dawson met a recruiter making door-to-door visits on behalf of a local adult education program. Dawson overcame his initial reluctance to reveal his illiteracy, telling himself, "All your life you’ve wanted to read. Maybe this is why you’re still around."

When he met the instructor Carl Henry, a retired teacher, he learned that the oldest student to that time had been a woman in her fifties. Actually, Dawson turned out to be a remarkably able student; he relished the opportunity of learning to read and even went on to study for his GED at age 103. 


As he approached his 100th birthday after he had learned to read, Dawson became something of a national celebrity in the 5 years or so prior to his death. His story was told in Guideposts magazine and he appeared as a guest on Oprah. TV programs were made about his life and he was awarded honorary degrees by two universities. He was posthumously honored by having a middle school named after him by a local school district. His life story was published in 2000. 


I found his perspective on what it was like to grow up in the segregated south of the early 20th century to be more than just informative. This is truly an inspirational example of the triumph of the human spirit over extreme adversity and hardship. It helps one reflect on the experiences and advantages encountered within one’s own lifetime and offers personal encouragement and motivation.


It’s hard not to be inspired as from time to time throughout his story, George Dawson conveys the message that sustained and energized him for over a century: “Life is so good. I do believe it’s getting better.”


I can’t help but think that such a positive viewpoint was derived in no small part from a deep spiritual grounding. May the Lenten journey of 2012 provide for all of us abundant strength for today and hope for tomorrow.



George Weaver, Pastor of Maturing Ministries