Chapter 1David Risher, the Lost Key, and Eradicating IlliteracyAre You a Determined Optimist?

Don't ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.

—Howard Thurman

“I knew at a very young age I was a reader. My mom instilled the belief in me that ‘if I don't have reading, I have nothing.’” When David Risher was five, his parents divorced, leaving his mom to support the family. Those were not easy times growing up. Mom didn't have much work experience, but did find a job selling encyclopedias. The money was just enough, at times barely, to support the family and, just as important to her, filled their house with encyclopedias.

David will tell you he has been a reader for as long as he can remember. So for a kid like David who loved to read, his mom's job was the perfect setup. Books on any subject were literally everywhere. When his mom ran errands, she would drop the boys off at the library. When he walked to school, it was always with a book in his hand. He was passionate about books. Reading is part of David's core self.

He was one of the first people I got to know in my new job back in 1991. I definitely didn't think “superhero” when I met him. He seemed like a regular Joe. He was a soft-spoken, never-full-of-himself kind of human being. There was a quiet confidence and a sort of sparkle in the guy's eyes. Still is.

When you sit down with him, he has this disarmingly casual, friendly, laid-back ...

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