Right to Read


Working at the community mental health center, I looked for ways of helping those with mental problems, who were homeless or lacked other resources.  Often, I succeeded in linking them with the appropriate resource or agency.  Usually, clients were appreciative of my efforts, and I felt satisfied that I was able to help.  That wasn’t always the case. One day, I came upon a scene that stays in my memory, and changed by assumptions about people.  

 Having been picked up at the library, a man was bought in by the police. Disheveled and carrying a knapsack, the elderly client smelled of cigarettes and beer.  With a grim expression, he sat down reluctantly.  I said, “What brings you to the social work office?”  After a cold silence, he said, “I was evicted from the library for loitering.” Gazing down at his tattered jeans and stained T-shirt,   I asked, “How can I help you?”  With a fixed stare, he said, “Take me back to the library.”  With raised eyebrows, I peered at him. “What do you want to do?”  With an angry, furrowed brow, he said, “Read!” 

At this point,   I realized I had made assumptions that were not true. I assumed that he wanted  a place to stay, and financial help.  He didn’t.  He was telling me, “Here I am. Leave me alone.  I have my right to read.”



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