Literacy student shares moving story about growing up in Jamaica
by Lester Mitchell
Student, Literacy Volunteers of Southern Connecticut
I was born on the beautiful island of Jamaica. But my life in the beginning was not beautiful because I was motherless and fatherless.
As a baby, I was passed from hand to hand to whoever could feed and care for me. When I was little, I was passed to Mary Douglas, who cut up a flour sack to make me a shirt. I lived with her and her nephew.
Miss Mary sent her nephew to school, but not me. My purpose was to guide Miss Mary’s father, who was blind, and to tend the pigs and goats. After her father died, Miss Mary leased the house and land to a man, took her nephew to her sister and left me behind.
The man was a cruel man. He did not feed or clothe me. Once when I took a piece of bread from the table, he burned my hand, tied my thumbs together, and beat me until I thought I would die. I slept outdoors under a tree. I worked every day in the fields of yams, cocoa, dasheem, casabas, sugar cane and coffee beans. Animals were treated better than I was. I began to have cruel intentions and became wicked inside.
As I grew older, one of the jobs I had was to take sugar cane loaded on a donkey from the field to the road for pick up. I was paid one cent a day.
When I was 28 years old, I met a woman and we had children. I looked at my children and wanted a better life for them. I released the burning wickedness inside me and decided to move my family from the countryside where there was no future, to the city where I hoped to build a good life.
I was employed as a handyman gardener and gained a reputation as a hard worker who was always honest and polite. I sent all my children to school. I was hired to clean the wards in the hospital, then to clean the kitchen, then to clean nursing homes. I was respectful and slowly climbed the mountain to a good job as a cleaner of the operating room and as a hospital orderly. I worked 37 years at the hospital and earned the Best Male Orderly award.
I retired to the United States and live with my daughter in Stratford. Last year, I started to learn proper English with my tutor. Although my mind sometimes goes for a walk when I’m reading and writing, I am delighted to finally be in school.