By Al Batt
“Who did this?” asked my teacher. Thirty children tried to think about not only what they had done, but also what our teacher may have found out. “Who did this?” asked my teacher once more. She wasn’t asking, she was demanding an answer. She seldom became angry, but she was this time. She held up a piece of broken glass and asked, “Who broke this window?”
“Oh, oh,” I thought. I was the one who broke the window. It was caused by an errant throw of a baseball. I was working on my knuckleball. It needed more work. Why did it have to be me? If I admitted guilt, I would be in a lot of trouble. How would I be able to pay for a big window like that? I didn’t even get an allowance. “My father is going to kill me,” I thought. I didn’t want to raise my hand, but some force much stronger than I was pulled it skyward. “I did it.” I said.
After waiting several seconds to realize what had happened, my teacher turned and went to one of our library shelves and took down a book. She then began walking toward my desk. I had never known my teacher to strike a student, but I feared she was going to start with me and she was going to use this book.
“I know how you like birds,” she said as she stood looking down at my guilt-ridden face. “Here is that field guide about birds that you are constantly checking out. It is yours. It’s time we got a new one for the school anyway. The book is yours and you will not be punished as long as you remember that I am not rewarding you for your misdeed, I am rewarding you for your truthfulness.”
I couldn’t believe it! I wasn’t being punished and I was getting my own bird field guide. The very one that I had been saving up money to buy. The money I feared would be going to the school to buy a new window. I wore out that book trying to match the live, flying birds to their depictions in that field guide. The book is gone, so is my wonderful teacher. All that remains of that day is my memory and the lesson my teacher taught me. That lesson stays with me every day and it will echo forever.