Welcome to Easy Stories in English, the podcast that will take your English from OK to Good, and from Good to Great.
I am Ariel Goodbody, your host for this show. Today’s story is for intermediate learners. The name of the story is A Letter from God. You can find a transcript of the episode at EasyStoriesInEnglish.com/God. That’s EasyStoriesInEnglish.com/God. This contains the full story, as well as my conversation before it.
So today’s story is another listener-submitted story. One of our listeners, Hubert Lenartowicz, sent in the story. So thank you so much again, Hubert, for your wonderful story. It’s a really interesting personal story. It’s a real story. So it’s a bit different. We’ve never had a real-life story on the podcast before, except perhaps the episode about Ludowik Zamenhof, the creator of Esperanto. That’s at EasyStoriesInEnglish.com/Hope if you are interested. But anyway, today’s story is a very personal story, so I really appreciate Hubert sending it in.
Hubert is from Poland and the story takes place in the capital of Poland, Warsaw, or, as it’s known in Polish, Warszawa. Poland is a lovely country. I have been there quite a few times for Esperanto events, mainly. Uh, I haven’t been around Warsaw very much but, uh, Polish food is delicious! And Polish people are very nice. Actually, there is a very large population of Polish people in the UK, especially in London.
So today’s story is about Hubert’s grandparents and his experience with God and religion, specifically, Christianity. Hubert has collected some wonderful pictures of his grandparents when they were young, so pictures from the 40s and 50s and 60s, and I’m going to post some of these pictures on the transcript at EasyStoriesInEnglish.com/God. So thanks again, Hubert, and remember, if you want to send in a story that you have written, write me an email at Ariel@EasyStoriesInEnglish.com. I would love to read your work.
Since today’s story is related to religion, I thought I might as well talk about my own experience with religion. So, both my parents are Christian. I think that’s the right word? I’ll be honest, even though my parents are religious and I went to a religious school, I really don’t understand the differences between the denominations very well. So the denominations are the difference between Christian, catholic, Roman catholic, protestant, Church of England and so on.
Anyway, I went to a catholic school and I used to go to church every week but I don’t think I ever really believed in God. I found church and religion very boring, to be honest, especially when I was young, and when I became a teenager I started looking up stuff online and I formally decided that I was an athiest.
So an athiest is a non-believer, someone who does not believe in the existence of God. And I became an athiest officially maybe around 12 or 13, and I was a really annoying, obnoxious athiest, actually. I read a lot of forums online about athiesm and how “religion is stupid” and all of those things. Luckily, I never got angry at anyone. I never really told anyone these views apart from my friends at school. I think now there are a lot athiests online who are incredibly annoying and very obnoxious and loud about their beliefs or lack of beliefs.
I still consider myself an athiest, or maybe agnostic. Agnostic means that you are not an athiest but you don’t strongly believe in God, that you’re open to the idea of religion or open to the idea of God existing. I would still say I am an athiest but it’s not important for me. It really isn’t a big deal.
I think my problem is actually more with Christianity specifically. I have considered both Judaism and Buddhism before for converting and, I don’t know, at the moment I don’t have enough time to really convert to another religion, you know? I want to do the research and really figure out if it’s right for me. The part of Judaism that interests me is the discussion, the debate and the interpretation of texts such as the Torah. I really get the feeling that in Judaism there’s a lot of interpretation rather than just being told what to believe, and I really like the practices and language that are used in Buddhism.
Obviously, there are many different branches or denominations of Buddhism but generally the incorporation of meditation into the religion really, I appreciate. Actually, I was going to a Buddhist group for a while in my city, in Bath, uh, where we did meditation together, but I don’t know if I could convert to Buddhism, ’cause when you convert to Buddhism you have to say you will never kill… OK, I will never kill… a person, at least! Maybe I’ll kill a fly, I don’t know. Uh, you have to say you will become a vegetarian and that you will never steal and, OK the vegetarian part I could probably do, but like sometimes I steal pens from work, and I don’t think that’s such a big deal! So, I don’t know if I could formally convert to Buddhism, but I’ve definitely considered it. So for now, I’m not religious but we will see what happens with that.
Recently, the podcast hit an important milestone. So a milestone is a way of marking progress, and the milestone that we hit was 500,000 listens. So the episodes of the podcast have been listened to over 500,000 times, which is crazy! It’s so big. I cannot believe it’s grown so quickly. I appreciate all of you listening so much and I need to figure out what to do when we hit a million, because obviously a million is a really special number so I should find some way to celebrate. But thank you so much for listening, and I really am enjoying doing the podcast.
OK, I’ll just explain some words that are in today’s story.
Communism is an ideology, a belief system, and a system of government. Communism is based on the writings of Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, Rosa Luxemburg and so on. The goal of communism is to achieve a society with complete economic equality, meaning that all arms of production—factories, farms, workshops—will be owned and run by the workers themselves. Basically, there will be no CEOs who make money from other people’s work. In addition to this, communist societies would have free access to healthcare, public transport, education and so on.
However, the transition to communism would take a long time, so before communism is achieved, a stage of socialism is required. There is sometimes confusion because countries such as China and Cuba are “communist countries” but have socialism as their current system. Based on the theory of marxism, communist countries such as China are trying to move gradually from socialism to communism.
In today’s story, there is reference to the “communist era” in Poland. Along with many countries, Poland used to be a communist state. It was part of the Soviet Union, a union of many communist countries, along with Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan etc.
An urn is a big pot that you put a dead person’s ashes in. So when someone dies, you can choose to bury them, put them in the ground, or have them cremated, burnt. When you cremate a dead person, you take their ashes, their remains, and keep them in an urn. Some people keep urns of dead relatives in their house.
A wake is a kind of party that happens after a funeral. At the wake, people eat food and talk about the person who has died. It is sometimes called a ‘reception’ as well. Sometimes, wakes are very quiet and sad, but some people have happy wakes, to try and celebrate the life of the person who died.
Carefree is when you have no worries. You are not at all anxious. You are literally free of cares. I wish I was carefree. Usually, I worry too much about things, and I am not so carefree.
A baptism is a ceremony for new babies. When a baby is baptised, a priest pours water over their head and gives the baby a name. In Christianity, all children are baptised.
A wreath is a decoration made from leaves and flowers. You make a ring of green leaves, and then attach flowers, ribbons and bells to make it look nice. Wreaths are usually made for Christmas, and you put it on your front door. In this story, a wreath is made to put on a grave instead.
Intimate is when you know someone very well, you are very close. For example, I am intimate with my close friends and I can talk to them about everything. Intimate can also mean a private matter. For example, I don’t want to talk about my romantic life on the podcast, because it is something intimate
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OK, so listen and enjoy!
A Letter from God
My name is Hubert Lenartowicz, and this is my story. All the details in it are true. I hope you will believe me.
I’m 57 and I grew up in a family of athiests. My father in particular did not believe in God. In addition, he was a police officer in a school for traffic police, as well as a history teacher. In the communist era in Poland it was forbidden for police officers to believe in God or have any connections to the Church. It might not mean losing your job but it would be the end of your professional career. Even as a retired man, my father was critical of the Church.
My wife, on the other hand, is deeply religious, and tells me religious stories regularly. I don’t care much for them. I told her that I am not an enemy of the Church, I simply am not a believer.
‘Maybe one day I’ll see a sign and change my mind. I’m open to believing. But for now, I’m not interested.’
I always saw her when she came back from church, or other religious meetings. She always looked so happy. But I didn’t see myself as part of it.
My father died at 86-years-old on the second of April 2018. On the ninth was his funeral. The day before, I went to see our family grave. I wanted to see if they had changed it. I also visited the hall where my father’s urn was, and checked the restaurant for the wake after the funeral, as well as the parking facilities. Everything seemed in order.
I also went to visit my grandmother’s grave. She passed away in 1982, and she was my guiding light. Her grave looked the same as ever. There was a stone cross coming out of it, with her picture placed on it. I stared at the picture for a long time. Then I covered it with my hand and looked up the sky and thought.
“You were the most important person in the world. I think about you a lot, you know. You are always close to my heart.”
I went home, and a few hours later, my mother came to me.
‘Look. I found this while cleaning out Dad’s drawers. It’s an old letter. I didn’t know we had it. My mother wrote it in 1964, when you were just two years old.’
The letter was written by my maternal grandmother, my mother’s mother, to my paternal grandmother, my father’s mother. My maternal grandmother talked about me in a way that only a grandmother can. She called me “Peter”, the name I used as a child. The letter was cheerful and carefree, but there were two sentences that were very serious.
It is time for the child to be shown to God. I know Peter’s father does not want to baptise him, but it must happen. We will do it in secret.
Suddenly I understood. Those words were not written to my paternal grandmother, but to me, reading the letter now 54 years later. It was a letter from God: a sign. It was clear, as clear as daylight. I had tears in my eyes. It could not be a coincidence. I had just visited her grave and thought about her, and suddenly this letter appeared. It had waited 54 years to be read by me.
My father’s mother had given my father the letter. My father knew that I was baptised, but he said nothing. Still, he kept the letter in his house, so that he could prove to his employer that he was against his son’s baptism, if he needed to. The two sentences about my baptism were underlined in red pencil. And God, in his wisdom, used my grandmother to lead me to Him.
But this is not the end of the story. The day after the funeral, I went back to the family grave to say my last goodbye to my father. I was moving away from Warsaw, so I wouldn’t see him for a long time. While I was there, I checked that the flowers and wreaths were in good condition.
“Hmm, if I put these two wreaths on the cross it’ll look much better.”
While I put up the wreaths, I hit my head twice on the cross. It felt like a message from God: ‘You understood the message in your grandmother’s letter, but that is not all. Now you must take action.’
Over the next weeks and months, I told this story to some close friends. They were just as amazed as I was. I started to wonder, is it OK to tell other people? Or is it an intimate matter between me and God? Is it our secret that I should not be boasting about?
But as the months passed, my fear of telling the story disappeared. I felt like God was on my side. And in the last two years, my life has been full of happiness. So now I tell you this story not with fear, but with joy.
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