“Sir, did you recognize me? I am Manuel. I was your student 40 years ago.”
The teacher replied. “I’m sorry, I don’t see so well anymore. Tell me, what are you doing these days?”
“Sir, like you, I became a teacher.”
“A teacher!” The older gentleman was surprised. “How did you come to choose education for your career?”
“Well, it was an incident that happened when I was in your classroom so many years ago. It had such an impact on me that I decided that very day, I would become a teacher like you.”
“I am sorry; my memory is poor. What was the incident?” asked the teacher.
“In our class, there was a student named Albert; he was the son of a wealthy man. One day he came to school wearing a beautiful wristwatch. It was gold, and there were diamonds around the face of the watch. I had never seen a piece of jewelry so grand. I became obsessed with the watch. Before long, I dreamed of having it for myself. I soon found an opportunity to steal the watch.
“It was fourth period, P.E. class; we were all in the locker room changing clothes. Albert took off the watch and put it in his gym locker. He was careless and didn’t snap the lock tight. I knew this was the moment. I stayed behind with an excuse to use the restroom while all the other boys left for the gymnasium. I was alone. I took the watch and hid it in my pants pocket. I made sure my locker was secure.
“When we got back to the locker room to change back into our school clothes, Albert noticed his watch was missing.”
Manuel choked up and held back a tear. “I was terrified. The period ended, we lined up, and you came to pick up our class. “That’s when Albert told you someone must have taken the watch from his locker.”
The teacher gave a small smile and encouraged Manuel to go on.
“We lined up in the locker room, and you closed the door. You told all of us students to close their eyes and keep them closed until you said otherwise; you would be checking our pockets.” Manuel paused and went on with his story.
We each waited to be searched, no one more nervous than I. You came to me, patted my pants pockets, slipped your hand in my right pocket that held the stolen watch, and silently retrieved Albert’s watch.”
Sir, you made sure that no one knew which boy was the guilty party. I felt relief wash over me and thanked God for your mercy. Right there and then I made a vow never again to take what is not mine.
We opened our eyes when you gave the direction. You announced that you found the watch and you gave it to Albert. You told Albert never to bring the valuable watch to school again. And, just like that, we marched back to the classroom, and the incident was over. But, it never left me. Though I was thoroughly ashamed, you spared me from humiliation. Why?”
The teacher explained.
“I knew the child who stole that watch would benefit more from grace than punishment. And, I am happy to see I was correct.”
Manuel told the humble man he always wondered why he had never sought him out to talk privately about such a transgression.
The teacher replied, “Young man, I never knew who took the watch. You see, I too kept my eyes closed in the locker room that day.”
Adapted by Susan Diamond
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