It was a most trying period. Things at
home were getting from bad to worse. Dad's alcoholism had become worse,
especially after his retrenchment. Mum was always temperamental as she could not
make ends meet with her meager income as a
factory operator. I had been an above-average student, but now I was doing
poorly in school.
I dreaded coming home after school. Dad would come home late
and shout abuse at Mum. When he fell asleep, I would often hear Mum's stifled
sobs. I could do nothing to ease the situation at home and this realization
caused me a great deal of anguish and frustration.
It was at this point that
Mrs Justin entered my life. A soft-spoken woman in her late forties, she was my
class teacher. an alert woman, she was quick to notice the change that had come
over me. One day, during recess, I was standing alone in one corner of the
canteen when Mrs Justin spotted me. She gestured for me to follow her. We headed
for the library where she beckoned me to take a seat next to her. I sat with my
head bent. 'Helen,' she called. I lifted my head and looked at her. I saw the
warmth, the love and the compassion in her lovely eyes. Tears welled up in my
eyes and I tried my best to hold them back. However, I could not. They started
flowing down my cheeks. She held my hands and waited. when I had finished, she
asked me if I wanted to confide in her and tell her my problem. I told her. she
listened intently with the patience of a saint. At the end of my story, she gave
me a lesson on life and its ups and downs. As I heard her talk, my admiration
for this woman grew. My perception changed. before this meeting, I had felt I
was a nonentity. However, as the meeting
progressed, If felt different. I knew Mrs Justin cared for me.
In the days
that followed, Mrs Justin made it a point to discuss my work at school with me.
For the first time in that year, I felt I was worthy of being loved. Things at
home remained quite the same but there was a profound change in me. The
end-of-year examination approached. Two weeks after the exam. Mrs Justin
announced to the class that I was the top student in the class. As I looked at
her, I felt a sudden surge of happiness. It was one of the happiest days I had
in school for a very long time.