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Read the story to the end. What change of heart does the author have in mind ?
Stoffel looked up to find Inga standing at his bedside. When she saw his eyes open, she grasped his hand and then rushed out of the room to call for a doctor. The next time he woke they were both standing by his bedside, but it was another week before the surgeon was able to tell him what had happened following the crash. Stoffel listened in horrified silence when he learned that the other driver had died of head injuries soon after arriving at the hospital.
УYouТre lucky to be alive,Ф was all Inga said.
УYou certainly are,Ф said the surgeon, Уbecause only moments after the other driver died, your heart also stopped beating. It was just your luck that a suitable donor was in the next operating theatre.Ф
УNot the driver of the other car ?Ф said Stoffel.
The surgeon nodded.
УBut ... wasnТt he black ?Ф asked Stoffel in disbelief.
УYes, he was,Ф confirmed the surgeon. УAnd it may come as a surprise to you, Mr van den Berg, that your body doesnТt realise that. Just be thankful that his wife agreed to the transplant. If I recall her wordsФ Ч he paused Ч Уshe said, УI canТt see the point in both of them dying.Ф Thanks to her, we were able to save your life, Mr van den Berg.Т He hesitated and pursed his lips, then said quietly, УBut IТm sorry to have to tell you that your other internal injuries were so severe that despite the success of the heart transplant, the prognosis is not at all good.Ф
Stoffel didnТt speak for some time, but eventually asked, СHow long do I have ?Т
УThree, possibly four years,Ф replied the surgeon. УBut only if you take it easy.Ф
Stoffel fell into a deep sleep.
It was another six weeks before Stoffel left the hospital, and even then Inga insisted on a long period of convalescence. Several friends came to visit him at home, including Martinus de Jong, who assured him that his job at the bank would be waiting for him just as soon as he had fully recovered.
УI shall not be returning to the bank,Ф Stoffel said quietly. УYou will be receiving my resignation in the next few days.Ф
УBut why ?Ф asked de Jong. УI can assure you...Ф
Stoffel waved his hand. УItТs kind of you, Martinus, but I have other plans.Ф
The moment the doctor said Stoffel could leave the house, he asked Inga to drive him to Crossroads, so he could visit the widow of the man he had killed. The tall, fair-haired white couple walked among the shacks of Crossroads, watched by sullen, resigned eyes. When they reached the little hovel where they had been told the driverТs wife lived, they stopped. Stoffel would have knocked on the door if there had been one. He peered through the gap and into the darkness to see a young woman with a baby in her arms, cowering in the far corner.
УMy name is Stoffel van den Berg,Ф he told her. УI have come to say how sorry I am to have been the cause of your husbandТs death.Ф
УThank you, master,Ф she replied. УNo need to visit me.Ф
As there wasnТt anything to sit on, Stoffel lowered himself to the ground and crossed his legs.
УI also wanted to thank you for giving me the chance to live.Ф
УThank you, master.Ф
УIs there anything I can do for you ?Ф He paused. УPerhaps you and your child would like to come and live with us ?Ф
УNo, thank you, master.Ф
УIs there nothing I can do ?Ф asked Stoffel helplessly.
УNothing, thank you, master.Ф
Stoffel rose from his place, aware that his presence seemed to disturb her. He and Inga walked back through the township in silence, and did not speak again until they had reached their car.
УIТve been so blind,Ф he said as Inga drove him home.
УNot just you,Ф his wife admitted, tears welling up in her eyes. УBut what can we do about it ?Ф
УI know what I must do.Ф
Inga listened as her husband described how he intended to spend the rest of his life.
The next morning Stoffel called in at the bank, and with the help of Martinus de Jong worked out how much he could afford to spend over the next three years.
УHave you told Inga that you want to cash in your life insurance ?Ф
УIt was her idea,Ф said Stoffel.
УHow do you intend to spend the money ?Ф
УIТll start by buying some second-hand books, old rugby balls and cricket bats.Ф
УWe could help by doubling the amount you have to spend,Ф suggested the General Manager.
УHow ?Ф asked Stoffel.
УBy using the surplus we have in the sports fund.Ф
УBut thatТs restricted to whites.Ф
УAnd youТre white,Ф said the General Manager.
Martinus was silent for some time before he added, УDonТt imagine that youТre the only person whose eyes have been opened by this tragedy. And you are far better placed to...Ф he hesitated.
УTo... ?Ф repeated Stoffel.
УMake others, more prejudiced than yourself, aware of their past mistakes.Ф
That afternoon Stoffel returned to Crossroads. He walked around the township for several hours before he settled on a piece of land surrounded by tin shacks and tents. Although it wasnТt flat, or the perfect shape or size, he began to pace out a pitch, while hundreds of young children stood staring at him. The following day some of those children helped him paint the touchlines and put out the corner flags.
For four years, one month and eleven days, Stoffel van den Berg travelled to Crossroads every morning, where he would teach English to the children in what passed for a school. In the afternoons, he taught the same children the skills of rugby or cricket, according to the season. In the evenings, he would roam the streets trying to persuade teenagers that they shouldnТt form gangs, commit crime or have anything to do with drugs.
Stoffel van den Berg died on 24 March 1994, only days before Nelson Mandela was elected as President. Like Basil DТOliveira, he had played a small part in defeating apartheid. The funeral of the Crossroads Convert was attended by over two thousand mourners who had travelled from all over the country to pay their respects.The journalists were unable to agree whether there had been more blacks or more whites in the congregation.
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