Watchman on the Wall: Defining Moment


Class of ’67, Highlands High School, North Highlands, California. “Defining Moment” means “a point at which the essential nature or character of a person is revealed or identified.” 

My “defining moment” came in May 1967 as I sat at the far back of the Highlands High School Library trying to avoid the watchful, piercing eye of Mrs. Patocka, the school librarian. I looked her up in my Tartan Year Book to be sure of the spelling of her name. There she was, standing at a card file with her hair done up in a French Twist. She was smiling. The first time I ever saw the woman smile! She was all business, stern, and had this scary way of lifting one eyebrow up high when she stared you down because you had talked in the library. 

There we sat, a whole table full of boys and girls, jocks and cheerleaders, nerds and cool, hipsters. It was the sixties, time of hippies, mini skirts and bell bottom trousers, a time to stretch our wings, learn to smoke, and “do our own thing.” There we sat whispering “dirty” jokes, though by today’s standards they would be considered PG rated. I was terrible at telling jokes; I could never remember the punch line. However, I wanted to be “cool,” one of the crowd, so I listened and laughed. Everybody took a turn telling a joke or some dumb story. 

Suddenly, I sat back and looked around the table. These had been my friends and buddies since elementary school. I was in Pep Squad, Chess Club, Spanish Club, studying for a science degree and taking Latin. I went to all the football and basketball games and helped with fundraisers. I loved it all, and I wanted to be part of the “in crowd.” 

In one moment things changed. I suddenly felt “slimed,” that awful feeling that what you’re doing is not quite right, that thing called conscience.

I said to myself, “I can’t keep doing this. This is wrong.” I had started the habit of daily reading my Bible not realizing it was little by little changing my outlook, my morality, my world view. Then I heard that voice of accusation and condemnation, that voice that tries to push you to keep doing wrong. “If you leave this group, you will never have friends.” I replied, “I don’t care! I’m not doing this anymore.” 

I quietly pushed back my chair, got up with my school books, and went to another table. “Hey Loraine, where are you going?” I replied truthfully, “I need to study for a test and do some homework.” 

Throughout the years, I’ve had my ups and downs, my slips in character, my faults and sins, but through it all the Bible has been my plumb line; the compass by which I guide my life. When I’ve followed it, I’ve been happy, satisfied, and made right choices. I’ve never regretted walking away. Never regretted that “defining moment.” ■

— Loraine Joy is a small business owner and Arbuckle resident. Contact Loraine at