How Anchu Learned The True Meaning Of Class
Anchu, a young Blue Shoyru, plopped miserably onto the sofa. “Mom, I’m hungry,” he whined. The smell of frying onions hung in the air, and he salivated as he thought of the rich and gorgeous bounty his mother was cooking for dinner. “When do we eat?”
“We eat when the food is ready and the guests arrive, my dear,” said his mother, stirring her sausage casserole and placing it in the oven. She checked the temperature, and turned the oven dial up a notch.
Anchu swung his legs and tried to ignore his growling stomach. Would the food ever be ready? He’d been waiting all day for the delicious treats his mother was preparing for dinner. They’d even gone shopping together for the ingredients! It was going to be his birthday dinner, and the party guests he had invited were all of his closest classmates and their parents.
There was a knock at the front door. Anchu jumped up to answer it. A huge Royal Grarrl hovered in the doorway.
“Boxer, how ya doin’, my man!” shouted Anchu as the two hugged in greeting. A smiling Desert Aisha peeked out from over Boxer’s shoulder. “And Nipper, whassup, girl! Glad you could make it!” The three of them slapped a high five together.
The parents were all introduced to each other, and Anchu’s mother smilingly led everyone to the dinner table. There, laid out in full glistening glory, was a colossal spread of roasted meats, aromatic stews, and crispy fried vegetables. There were great bowls of punch lining one side of the table, and appetizing tureens, crocks, and dishes of food were scattered here and there in plentiful supply.
“Finally!” exclaimed Anchu, taking in the wonderful sight. “Let’s eat!”
And the merry group sat down together to enjoy Anchu’s birthday dinner.
An hour into the birthday celebration, the group began exchanging stories. They were no longer hungry after having stuffed themselves so heartily, so they lazily twirled pasta around their forks and laughed at the anecdotes that they each had to share. Boxer turned to Anchu and poked him in the gut.
“I could never understand why you stopped playing in the middle of the Altador Cup,” said Boxer with a pout on his face. He took an enormous bite of pasta, and put down his fork. “We were so close to winning for the Roo Island Team,” he sputtered through a gooey mouthful of pasta sauce, “and we only needed a few more of your goals to put us over the edge! I can’t believe you stopped playing right in the middle of the tournament! That wasn’t classy, dude!” He took another enormous bite of pasta and incapacitated himself for a moment.
“I had work to do,” muttered Anchu, feeling a twinge of regret. “I couldn’t get out of it, so I had to sit the rest of the tournament out. Too bad, though -- I was really good at that game.”
“Good? You were awesome, man!” The group turned to hear Nipper speak. “You were one of the best Right Forwards the team has ever seen, and you quit, man! Right in the middle of the game!”
“Like I said, I had work to do,” said Anchu, sadly. “I feel bad about Roo Island losing, but what else could I do? We all have projects we need to get done. Mine just happened to be in the middle of the Altador Cup.”
“Team camaraderie is a beautiful thing,” said Anchu’s mother, gently. “I’m sorry that Anchu had to miss the tournament, but people have different priorities, and Anchu is no exception. It takes a lot of class to support your teammates, and it takes a lot of class to never turn your back on them, so I commend you two, Boxer and Nipper, for the courage you displayed at last year’s Altador Cup. You both played your hearts out, and you were a credit to the team. I apologize if Anchu showed very little class in abandoning you to the Darigan Citadel Team during the final competition.”
The uncomfortable group fell silent, and tried not to think poorly of Anchu, the young Blue Shoyru who had abandoned his Roo Island Team in the midst of a heated Yooyuball battle to “do chores.” But it was too late. The uneasiness had spread thickly throughout the air, and the once-merry dinner group now struggled to find something fresh and agreeable to say.
Anchu had felt his face slowly turning red after his mother had spoken, and when she was through, he had turned to glare at her. “What are you talking about, Mother? I have plenty of class. I was just busy that week.”
His mother seemed not to hear him. “Assisting your teammates the way you did during the Altador Cup tournament was truly commendable, Boxer and Nipper. The goals you made that week, sacrificing your time and energy, were truly heroic. I hope you know that Roo Island remembers and honors the efforts you made, and we’re all grateful for the class you showed defending your team.”
Boxer and Nipper grinned and thanked Anchu’s mother for her kind words. The atmosphere cleared somewhat, and the dinner went on as merrily as before.
But for the rest of the day, Anchu sulked in his room. Betrayed by his own mother! How could she accuse him of having “very little class” at the dinner table, in front of all their guests? He was ashamed and embarrassed beyond belief. His own mother had humiliated him in front of his closest friends. “Anchu showed very little class in abandoning you,” she had said. He buried his burning face in his arms, and groaned.
All week long, he was silent. He avoided his mother at all costs, wavering between mortification and unspeakable rage. He ate his meals sullenly, did his chores in silence, and retreated to his room to simmer in his wretched anger.
“My own mother told me I had no class,” he told himself, sourly. “No one else’s mother would say such awful things. My mother doesn’t appreciate me.” He seethed. He fumed. He noisily rearranged the furniture in his room.
“What’s all the racket about?” said his mother, coming into the room.
“Nothing,” he said. It was the first word he had spoken in a week. His mother looked at him, and sighed.
“Anchu, there’s been something I’ve been meaning to tell you,” she said, quietly. “I know that you’re probably angry about what I said at the table during your birthday party last week, so I’d like to apologize. I didn’t get a chance to continue saying what I wanted to say. You looked so angry, and I was so afraid to keep talking, that I thought that by dropping the subject, it would all get swept under the rug. But it was wrong of me. Sit down, my son, and let me tell you what I REALLY wanted to say that day.”
Anchu sat down on a corner of the bed. His mother sat down on the middle. And she began to speak.
“You were one of the greatest Right Forwards the Roo Island Team had ever seen,” said Anchu’s mother. “I was so proud of you when you played, and I came to watch every single game, whether the outlook was good or bad for your team, because I knew you would play your little heart out and support your team any way that you could. You sacrificed yourself whenever you knew it would help someone else make a goal, and you passed the Yooyuball whenever someone was in a better position to score than yourself, no matter how much glory you would have earned making the goal on your own. I was proud to sit in the stands and tell the other parents that my son was playing for the Roo Island Team, and being the best darn Right Forward he could be.”
“I practiced so hard for the tournament,” Anchu said mournfully. “And all for nothing. Darigan Citadel won last year, and all because I couldn’t finish playing.”
“I know you were disappointed to quit in the middle of the game,” said Anchu’s mother. “But I was even prouder of your reason for quitting. Do you remember why you quit, my son?”
“I quit playing because Shuvi was having trouble with his homework,” said Anchu, “so I had to go help him.” Shuvi was one of his classmates, a rather forgetful yellow Buzz, and he had always had difficulty remembering Neopian history. So the two had settled into a comfortable routine of studying together after school, reciting their lessons and testing each other on the finer points of Neopia’s past.
“And why did you help Shuvi with his homework?” asked Anchu’s mother, lovingly petting her son’s back.
“Because he was having so much trouble learning the facts. All he had to do was follow a system of memorization, and he’d have all the facts down pat. But he was sick with the flu for two whole weeks of school, and he missed a lot of lessons. So on top of being bad at history, now he didn’t know ANY history at all!” Anchu felt a spasm of worry at the thought of his childhood friend flunking history class. And then he breathed a sigh of relief, for that danger was past. The two had studied their hearts out, passing the final exam with flying colors.
“And yet you didn’t have to help him,” said Anchu’s mother. “You could have finished playing in the Altador Cup, without worrying about him or his troubles. You even kept your tutoring a secret, not telling your closest friends that Shuvi needed private schooling, because you didn’t want him to feel embarrassed about needing the extra help. You didn’t even tell Boxer and Nipper, your two closest friends in the whole world, the real reason you quit playing in the tournament.”
“Boxer can’t keep a secret,” muttered Anchu, “and Nipper blabs about everything to everyone. Shuvi would’ve been too embarrassed to come back to school.”
“And that is where you showed genuine class, my son,” said Anchu’s mother. “Boxer and Nipper played well in the Altador Cup, and their camaraderie for their fellow teammates was admirable and noteworthy, but I spoke to their parents a few months after the tournament and it seems that all the praise they’ve gotten has turned their heads. They constantly disparage everyone who scored fewer goals than they did, and they turn their noses up at people who had real difficulty playing in the tournament. They won’t even talk to some of their old classmates who neglected to play in the tournament altogether, labeling them ‘traitors’ and ‘defectors.’
“There’s a word for that kind of behavior, my son. It’s called ‘High Class,’ and woe to the person who falls short of High Class standards! For people who are good-hearted and generous tend to get overlooked by High Class people, and people who are kind and compassionate hardly ever get noticed. High Class people are more preoccupied with status and achievements than with actual goodness and worth. Boxer and Nipper are High Class people, my son, as much as it pains me to say.
“But there’s another kind of class, Anchu. It’s called ‘First Class,’ and it involves a standard of decency and moral integrity that is very hard to develop, taking most people a lifetime to acquire. First Class people pay attention to kind and worthy people, and take the time to assist others in need. They offer their care and sympathy to others, and they sacrifice a part of themselves to help the smallest living creature, no matter how insignificant they may seem. First Class people are truly admirable folks who freely give to others of their time and love.”
“You can’t teach First Class, Anchu,” said Anchu’s mother proudly, straightening his wings and kissing him on the top of his head. “It’s something that you’ve earned, my darling son. Boxer and Nipper may have one kind of class, but YOU have the BEST kind of class. The kind of class that makes you a better person inside, the kind of class that makes people love you for who you are. THAT’S the kind of class I admire, and THAT’S the kind of class you possess. Do you finally understand me, my dear?”
Anchu looked up at his mother with love and affection written all over his face. “Yes, Mother,” he said warmly. “I think I understand you now.” He stood up and smiled. His mother stood up too, smiling with relief at her son’s transformed face.
And together, they went downstairs to eat dinner.