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home : blogs_old : inspiration corner November 25, 2015

Inspiration Corner
By Barbara Steiner
Classic stories from American history and the Bible
Thursday, May 2, 2013

Not Enough!

Barbara Steiner

"Tim, this is your junior year at high school. I want you to keep up your grades. You need to get a college degree so you can get a good job and make good money."

"Dad, I need a better reason to go to college. This subject of school and money is getting to me. Do you remember when I was in second grade that we read a book together about Ben Franklin?"

"Yes, I do. You were asking me questions about everything from light bulbs and tyrannosaurus rex dinosaurs to what made bad people bad."

"Dad, I don't want to lose my curiosity-not at school or at a job. There has to be a way to keep it. Ben Franklin kept his curiosity! So I'm reading about him again, and I'm liking what I'm finding.

When he was a little kid, Ben was teaching himself to read. His family wasn't rich, but there were books in his home, thanks to an uncle. He attended school only two years. That's hard to believe, but it was acceptable in the 1700's in Massachusetts. You wouldn't believe what Ben read before he was twelve. He read the Bible; it was part of home and school. There were no children's storybooks around his house. There were books of sermons, Shakespearean plays, Greek and Roman history, and science. These books captured him. And, he had a phenomenal memory about what he read!

His family was huge with sixteen brothers and sisters. Supper time was exciting with his Uncle Benjamin, his parents, and siblings. They had discussions about politics, work, church, and family matters. Uncle would recite poems he had written. Sometimes brother Josiah was home from the sea and would tell about other countries. After supper Ben's father might play songs on his fiddle.

Dad, I've been thinking. Ben taught himself to read. I know he must have been smart, but I keep wondering: What do I teach myself? Why doesn't our family talk about politics? How about music? You play the electric bass. I play sax in the school band. Sis plays flute. I think it would be cool to play together. I think curiosity makes you feel alive.

Did you know, by age ten Ben was working with his father making candles and soap. He sweated long hours over huge pots of boiling sheep fat; he cut candlewicks and filled molds. His favorite work though, was talking to customers.

When he was twelve, his father said, 'I'm going to apprentice you to your brother James for nine years to learn the trade of printing.' As an apprentice Ben was quick and used opportunities to learn. He was taught to set type and print pages. He talked with writers who came to the printing shop, borrowed books, often reading a book one night and returning it the next day. He wrote poetry and sold it on the streets. Secretly he wrote humorous letters to a newspaper editor, poking fun at life in Boston. Then at age 17 he had a serious disagreement with his brother, broke his apprenticeship, and left for Philadelphia.

He was poor and without work when he arrived. Soon he was printing and writing. This guy was eager with questions and projects, and always observing. He and a friend opened a printing company and he wrote a popular newspaper column. But, he wanted more challenges. Get this: at age 21 he founded a weekly discussion group called the Junto to discuss books and ideas, including scientific questions. From this group developed the first lending library in America, and the Philadelphia volunteer fire department. He began writing Poor Richard's Almanac. At age 42 Ben left printing to devote himself to science. Inventions flowed from him. And Dad, none of this includes his leadership in the formation of the United States of America.

To Benjamin Franklin, there was not one day without a question. Dad, that's for me!"

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