When he received “The Last White Parliament”on his 12th birthday, Philani Dladla had no idea about the twists and turns his life would take in the ensuing years, or how that book would indirectly save him from a life of homelessness and drugs.
VIDEOS BY INSPIRE MORE
The political memoir was a present from the man his mother worked for as a caretaker, and seems an odd choice for a pre-teen who had little previous exposure to books and didn’t even know what a dictionary was. But “he told me it was a very special book, so of course I wanted to find out for myself what it was about the book that made it so special,”said Dladla, who lives in South Africa.
After struggling through the book, his innate curiosity pushed him to want to read and learn more; he still has most of the 500 books that the man who gave him “The Last White Parliament”left him when he passed away.
Dladla’s love of books continued as the years progressed, but when he started drinking heavily and using drugs, his life took a dark turn. He dropped out of school and though he became a caregiver like his mother for a time, he eventually found himself jobless and homeless, living in the streets of Johannesburg.
But while his cohorts simply begged for money, Dladla decided to do something different: He decided to work for it.
He offered passersby reviews of his books, hoping to entice them to buy some of them so he could make money. Though profits initially went toward purchasing drugs, he finally kicked the habit — thanks to a lot of self-help books — and instead used the money to improve his life.
But he also wanted to help others who were living on the streets, so “I started using the money I got from selling books to buy everyone soup and bread every day, instead of spending that money on drugs,”he said. “Seeing their smiles motivated me to keep using the little I had to spread happiness. From that point on, I knew I never wanted to go back to being a drug addict.â€
Dladla gained international attention in 2013, when South African cinematographer Tebogo Malope posted a video in which he interviewed the then-22-year-old, tagging him with the moniker by which he is still known: the “Pavement Bookworm.â€
In the years since, Dladla launched and continues to lead a book club at a Johannesburg park, whose members range in age from 12 to 28.
“I give them books on the condition that they come back and tell me what they learnt from reading it,”he explained, and while not all of them return, he remains optimistic “because I know there are many more who love to read and who will use books as weapons to fight poverty.â€
He has now become a published author, given TED talks and traveled the world motivating others with his story of success.
Watch the video below to hear more of his incredible story, and be sure to share to spread inspiration!
Want to be happier in just 5 minutes a day? Sign up for Morning Smile and join over 455,000+ people who start each day with good news.