Celebrity
Sidney Poitier gets choked up recalling kind Jewish waiter who taught him to read as a boy
Not being able to thank him was one of his biggest regrets.
Luis Gaskell
01.05.23

When we finally hit the road to success, it’s only fair we give credit to those who helped get us here.

Very few people make it this far alone, after all.

For a lot of people, it might be their high school teachers or their dad who taught them how to drive.

For Sidney Poitier, it was a kind waiter in the restaurant he worked in a long time ago.

The late actor Sidney Poitier passed away in January of this year, but not before he shared a touching story from his youth.

He shared it all on CBS Sunday Morning. Poitier is no meager actor.

He’s a prestigious and respected performer who made history in his younger days.

In the 1960s, Poitier made history as the first black actor and Bahamian to win an Academy award.

Some of his films include In The Heat of the Night and Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner.

But for a time in his youth, Poitier couldn’t even read a script.

It was thanks to a Jewish waiter he worked with that he learned to read.

At his humble job washing dishes, Poitier would bring newspapers with him during his shifts.

His coworkers took this to mean that he liked reading the news. Though the truth was the opposite.

A coworker of his, an elderly Jewish man, asked him what was in the newspapers. Poitier told him he couldn’t even read them.

Twitter video Screenshot - CBS Sunday Morning
Source:
Twitter video Screenshot - CBS Sunday Morning

“I can’t tell you what’s in the paper because I can’t read very well.” he replied to the man

“Would you like me to read with you?” replied the man. Of course, Poitier said yes

“Every night. The place is closed, everyone’s gone….and he sat there with me week after week after week. I learned a lot. And then things began to happen.” he said fighting back tears as he reminisced.

Twitter video Screenshot - CBS Sunday Morning
Source:
Twitter video Screenshot - CBS Sunday Morning

Through this friend, Poitier learned what commas, syllables, and periods were.

He learned pronunciation and how to pause between words. Everything.

He became a successful, script-reading actor and was saved a life of illiteracy. All thanks to that elderly Jewish friend of his.

Twitter video Screenshot - CBS Sunday Morning
Source:
Twitter video Screenshot - CBS Sunday Morning

It makes you wonder if that man ever saw Poitier go on to become the movie star that he became.

Did he see Poitier accept those awards and think “Hey, it’s the man I taught how to read!”

When he accepted the award for best actor at the 36th Oscars, he did so with the utmost eloquence and command in his voice and vocabulary.

Those reading lessons from that Jewish friend of his made it possible, but Poitier never got to thank him.

Indeed, this was one of his biggest regrets according to the late actor.

Twitter video Screenshot - CBS Sunday Morning
Source:
Twitter video Screenshot - CBS Sunday Morning

When he went back with the plan to say thank you, it was too late.

Well, maybe they met again after the actor’s passing and he finally got to say thank you.

Now, there’s a nice way to think about it.

Twitter video Screenshot - CBS Sunday Morning
Source:
Twitter video Screenshot - CBS Sunday Morning

After his death, the greatest takeaway from this story is to always thank the people who got you where you are now.

Most of us are where we are thanks to someone else’s help. Don’t miss your chance to thank them as Poitier did either.

Click the video below to hear Poitier tell the powerful story.

Please SHARE this with your friends and family.

By Luis Gaskell
[email protected]
Luis Gaskell is a contributor at SBLY Media.
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