I was in the UK for most of the past two weeks. I learnt to use oil paints, create portaits that actually look like the person, I went drinking with friends, took part in a dressing-up-in-kinky-outfits competition at a goth club (and probably won), had a pole dancing lesson, and got a new tattoo. I saw lots of friends and renewed some old friendships. It’s been awesome.

On the plane on the way home I was sitting next to a couple of guys who were very clearly on their way to Amsterdam for a weekend of partying. Nice enough guys, but their eyes made them look like they were constantly looking for threats or opportunities in the world around them. I got chatting with one and he told me how he never reads and doesn’t write because he doesn’t know where to put the punctuation (such as full stops). In about twenty minutes I think I got him quite excited about learning to read and finding books that suited him, because they’re not all the same. He left the plane passionately promising me he was going to try harder with his English. I hope he does. I don’t know if he will – learning such fundamental skills by yourself takes dedication – but he really seemed to want to do it.

This really got me thinking about how people miss out on these things. It seemed that all he needed to do was to meet someone who really loves books for him to get excited, but he must have met these people before when they were his teachers at school. The hierarchy of the teaching system might be undermining the engagement with some students. When these students have no family or friends around them who are passionate about language and books then all they see are stuffy over-educated people telling them to read (whether that’s true or not is another matter).

I’m not sure of the solution, but I do think that we need to get more ‘everyman’ intellectual role models. These might be normal people or they might be minor celebrities. Whatever way we do it, small gestures could drastically change the lives of their audience.

In the meantime, society also needs to realise that just because a person is uneducated it doesn’t mean that they have no willingness to learn; perhaps they haven’t found the right inspiration yet. We all need to take part in inspiring those around us.

This week, see if you can find a way to inspire someone to push themselves – get them to paint, or read, or update their blog, or sign up for singing lessons, or pick a martial art they’ve always meant to learn… Whatever it is, share the love. This world is amazing and it will get better if we all help those around us.

See you Friday!