Time Off for Good Behavior

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“Time Off for Good Behavior,” New Era, May 1997, 12

Everyday Heroes:

Time Off for Good Behavior

Would you put college on hold while you tutored a needy six-year-old? Of course.

You’re Rosalie Pakiding, you’re 18 years old, and you’ve just graduated from high school. You’ve been accepted at the University of San Carlos in your native Cebu, Philippines, and you’ve decided you want to major in political science. You’ve got the world in front of you, and you can’t wait to tackle college. You’ve got big plans.

Then the next thing you know, you’re withdrawing from classes and telling your family and friends you’ve decided not to go to school for six months. Attending school right now just doesn’t feel right. You say it’s a feeling you have, but you really know it’s the Holy Ghost speaking to you. It doesn’t make sense to many people. But it does to you, and that’s all that matters.

So you’re left waiting for the second semester to start, which is still six months away. Half a year with free time on your hands. What do you do? You could apply for a job, so you check around to see what’s available. You’re offered a position working in a factory assembling parts to telephones. But working all day means you’d miss your institute classes, and since you enjoyed seminary so much when you were in high school, you turn the job down because, as you say, “Institute is more important.”

Then some things happen that help you understand why you had the feelings you did about going to school. It begins to make more sense.

You meet with Mrs. Itomay from your neighborhood. Her six-year-old daughter, Queenie Ann, is in kinder-one in school, but she has some troubles. She was born with a defect in her tongue that limits her ability to speak. Mrs. Itomay works all day, and she is worried. She knows Queenie Ann needs a tutor who can give her individual attention in the areas that are hard for her. But Mrs. Itomay doesn’t know who could provide that help. To compound matters, she doesn’t have much money to pay a tutor.

So you look at Mrs. Itomay and say, “I think I have an idea.”

You volunteer to be Queenie Ann’s tutor, and Mrs. Itomay is so relieved. What little money she does have she offers to you, but you turn it down. Although you could use the money you realize those seminary lessons about service really did sink in.

Suddenly you’ve got things to do, and life is going to be a bit different. It seems a little odd that instead of sitting in college classes as you planned, it’s you and this six-year-old working on the alphabet.

But you settle into a routine. You do your household chores in the morning and then pick up Queenie Ann. You have word exercises for her to do, you help her write her letters, and you take her to school. She’s a bit of a slow learner. But when she writes out a letter or says a word, you feel so good inside. You also discover she likes to sing. She’s shy around strangers, but you’ve quickly become her best friend. She sings to you a lot. Things are going so well that Queenie asks you if you’ll teach her more. You can tell she’s really learning. And she seems very happy. Whether you’re learning words or stopping for a soda pop break at a store outside the school, it doesn’t matter. She just likes being with you. And you know what? You like it too.

“I’ve learned to love her,” you say, not the least bit surprised by your response.

Taking a semester off, you also figured to have some free time when you weren’t with Queenie Ann. But then your ward, Mandaue II, is asked to produce a road show about the Book of Mormon for a stake activity. It’s a big project, and your bishop is looking for a person to serve as the scriptwriter. Everybody is so busy with school except you, so you volunteer for the assignment. Again, it just feels right.

There have been times when you wondered if you made the right decision, delaying school and everything. You’ve watched while friends progressed in school without you. You’ve asked your Heavenly Father for a confirmation that what you were doing was what he wanted and what was best for you. Eventually those feelings of doubt leave and you say, “I understand now.” And you really do.

Your testimony continues to grow, and you are so excited when you learn new gospel concepts. You’re a bit short on money, but that doesn’t seem to matter. “The knowledge I have learned from institute class cannot be exchanged for the money I could have earned if I had worked,” you explain when someone asks why you’re doing this. Then you continue. “I’m very happy about it.”

It’s then that you look down at Queenie Ann, who’s holding your hand. She looks up at you while squinting in the hot Philippines sun. She smiles, and as you smile back you realize that while dropping out of school for one semester would not be the right decision for most people, it was one of the best decisions you’ve ever made.

Photography by Laury Livsey