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U3A Writing: A Handful Of Clay

A handful of clay can say a lot about human potential, as Dharini Parameshwaran reveals in this story.

Daphne rummaged in the cupboard looking for something different to hold Steve's attention. He was not himself when he arrived at school this morning. He was rough, aggressive and ready for a tussle with anyone. Steve was a good-looking blond, blue eyed six year old, whose mother was an alcoholic and whose father had left the family home before Steve was born. As a result Steve arrived in this world purely of his own volition and not because he was wanted and lovingly waited for. He was born dumb. His mother cared for him when she was sober. When she was not, he was left to his own devices.
At the age of two Steve was made a ward of State, which forced his mum to reform if she wished to regain custody of her son. She went through a sober period, found another partner and applied for custody and got Steve back. Together with her partner - Uncle Jack to Steve, she did a better job this time, and at the age of six admitted him to the Special Development School for handicapped children. Steve was a loner, as he never had children of his age to play with. He was rough and a bully and was disliked by the other children who refused to play with him.

Now as Daphne was looking for something to distract him her hand fell on a cold and sticky substance. She got hold of the handful and pulled it out. It was a lump of clay - different coloured balls all stuck together to form one big ball.
Daphne handed this to Steve, asking him very slowly and clearly to feel the coolness and stickiness of this mass which is called clay. He grabbed it from her hand, but Daphne quickly took it back saying "That wasn't nice Steve, please try again," and held the mass out to him again. This time he held up his hand and looked at her, and she then put the clay in his hand saying "that was much better."

He looked at the lump in his hand, then systematically separated the different coloured balls and proceeded to mould the clay into various shapes. He made a blue bird, then he picked up the brown ball and flattened it out to form a worm for the bird. He had a lot of fun moulding animals till he began to tire of this activity, so Daphne gave him a box of crayons and a sheet of blank paper. Steve emptied the crayons onto the desk and separated the colours into groups that would blend. He drew bold thick strokes across the paper in colours that blended into each other. Daphne was amazed at his feel for colours and the way he combined them. She thought they may not succeed in educating this little boy, but they should be able to help him develop his love for colour and nature to bring out any artistic talent that may be latent within him, to enable him to express himself that way. With time he may reach his true potential.

It was just a handful of clay that had demonstrated this possibility to Daphne.

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