This story is about a single mother, Maria and her son Themba. They’re from a village called “Isizwe”, an undeveloped rural area wherein unemployment, drug abuse and crime are the order of the day. Since Maria’s husband passed on, she’s is constantly drinking alcohol every night, she’s forever in a shebeen drinking like there’s no tomorrow. Themba on the other hand, he recently graduated four months ago and he’s been struggling to find a job thus far.
Themba primarily grew up going to church since he was still a child. Today he’s a young man who grew up under the teachings of Jesus Christ. Every Sunday Themba and his peers volunteer at the church and sometimes pastor Martin rewards them by giving them R150 each as a token of appreciation. Pastor Martin really loved Themba because he was a faithful young man who feared God.
One day after the church service he called Themba and told him that he knew a farmer who was looking for someone to work with. Without hesitation he gave Themba the farmer’s number. Themba was thrilled. Themba then called the farmer and the farmer told him to come for an interview the following day. He got the job and as thrilled as he was, he went home to share the good news with his mother but she was not at home. She’s probably at the seven drinking, thought Themba. Dusk was setting and Maria hadn’t come home yet.
Themba then went to the shebeen and he found her there drinking. Themba then told his mother they must go home immediately. He whispered in her ear, “Mom, you need to stop what you’re doing, it’s really bad for your health.
Please Mom, just stop with this addiction.”
It was a beautiful Sunday and Themba prepared himself to go to church as usual. He met Pastor Martin and he asked Themba how he was doing. Themba smiled and replied, “Things are good and I thank you pastor for giving me the farmer’s number the other day.” He sighed for a moment and told Pastor Martin, “I’m not okay. Things are not good at home, my mom doesn’t want to stop drinking and it’s really frustrating me pastor,” said Themba. Pastor Martin then told him to pray and leave everything in the hands of God. Sometimes God doesn’t change the condition of a person until they change what is in themselves, thought Themba.
As he parted with Pastor Martin he received a call that his mother is throwing up all over the floor at the shebeen. He quickly ran to the shebeen. It was 7 p.m. As he entered the shebeen two drunk men approached him and they offered him a beer, but he refused. He told them he doesn’t drink. One of the drunkard men then said, “Who does he think he is? He mustn’t try to act holy, we’re all sinners.” Themba then took his mother off from the floor and they went home. The following day rumours were all over the village that Themba had started drinking like his mother does.
Themba didn’t know about the rumours yet. He went to Pastor Martin, but he could see something was bothering Pastor Martin. Pastor Martin, without lingering asked Themba, “Is it true?” Themba surprisingly said, “What’s true?”
“That you drank last night at the Shebeen?” said Pastor Martin.
Themba harshly said, “No, I just went there to fetch my mother. You can even go ask the owner of the shebeen if you don’t believe me.” Pastor Martin went with Themba to the shebeen owner. And he asked if Themba was drinking there the previous night. The owner said, “No Themba doesn’t drink, he always comes here not for drinking, but looking for his alcoholic mother.”
Pastor Martin was embarrassed by what the shebeen owner said. He quickly looked Themba in the eyes and asked for forgiveness. Themba then told him, “It’s okay Pastor, people will always judge you even though they don’t know you. The same way there were bogus rumours about me.”
Themba forgave him, and Pastor Martin, with tears streaming down his face, said to Themba, “Sometimes we judge a book by the cover, not knowing the whole story and we end up hurting those we love a lot. Today Themba you’ve taught me something very important, even though I’m a priest I’ll forever live by these words, don’t judge a book by its cover.”