THE STOLEN WATCH
By Khurshid Ali and Kenneth J. M. MacLean
In one class of an elite college, there were 30 students. One of the students got a very precious wrist watch from his father as a birthday gift. He put this watch on and went to the college. With pride he showed it to everyone and received praise. Then, during break time, he put the watch on his desk and went outside. When he came back, the watch was not there. Somebody had stolen it. He got very worried and told his professor, “I have lost the precious watch I received from my father as a birthday gift.”
“How was it lost?” the professor asked.
“During the break I put it on my desk and went outside. When I returned, the watch was not there.”
“Well, this happened just now, so no new person could have come into the room, nor could anyone have left. This means that the watch must be here. I hope we can find it.”
The professor was sure that he could find the watch but he did not desire that anyone would see who had stolen the watch. He wanted to save the thief. The professor found a solution. “Every student must blindfold himself. All of you stand in a row.”
The professor then went down the row, tapping the pockets of each of the students until he found the watch in one of the student’s pockets. But he did not stop his search until he reached the end of the row. Therefore, none of the students knew which of them was the thief.
The professor then continued with his lecture and after class returned the watch to the student who lost it without telling anyone who the thief was.
During the following days the thief became more and more worried, for this was not the first time he had stolen, even though he had never been caught.
“What if the professor tells the dean that I was the thief? Then my whole story will come out. What if he tells my parents? I will be expelled.”
The thief worried and grew more and more anxious. Finally, he could take it no more. He went to the professor and abased himself. “I am so sorry I stole that watch. I thank you so much for not revealing to anyone that I was the thief.”
The professor smiled at the student. “But I did not know who the thief was until you came to me.”
The student was shocked. “But how is this? You knew who I was because you took the watch from my pocket before returning it.”
“No. I blindfolded myself before I conducted the search. I was wondering if you would come to me and admit your guilt. Now that you have done so, I am satisfied.”
The thief was amazed.
“You see,” the professor said, “I did not wish to know who the thief was. I did not want to remember the incident. My job is not to find the weaknesses of my students, but to help them live a better life. A person and his actions are two different things. We can choose our actions. Deep inside, every person is good. Our actions, however, depend upon the time, the circumstances, and our thoughts, and change with time. At different times or under a different situation, a person might behave differently. We should not form a final opinion of anyone unless we give them a chance to right their wrong. You have done so, and I am proud of you.”
From that moment the thief’s life changed. He told the professor of his other thefts and how he would make restitution. He vowed then and there to only do good in the world, and help others. “I will show the patience and the compassion to others that you showed to me.”
The professor had tears in his eyes. “I believe you. I think you will be a force for good in the world.”
The former thief kept his promise. He made restitution to all he had robbed. Over the years he made enough money in his job to found a small school that would teach the principles of tolerance and compassion, for he had learned these things the hard way. He named the school after his professor.
At first he had trouble getting students, for in this world compassion comes a distant second to making money, ambition, and self-promotion. But gradually the school began to gain a reputation for integrity and adherence to the highest educational standards. The school flourished.
He invited the professor, now an old man, to give a lecture to his students at their graduation. The professor invited his former student up on the stage, and asked him to describe that long-ago incident.
At first the founder was concerned that his reputation would be sullied and that he would lose students if he told the truth about his past. The professor looked at him gravely. Finally the founder smiled and realized that this was a further test of his integrity. He described the incident truthfully, and all he had done. “And so you see,” he said to the audience, “that my old professor was able, without punishment or even mentioning my thievery to anyone, to turn my entire life around.”
The professor said, “It is better to not try to know bad things about others. If a person makes a mistake, he should be given a chance to realize it and correct it by himself. Just imagine, if this incident of stealing had not happened, my student would never have thought about founding this wonderful school.”
One of the students in the audience objected. “By ignoring thievery, we promote thievery,” he said. “To stop thieves the consequences for their wicked actions must be severe.”
The professor smiled. “Before we look at the weaknesses or the vices in others, we must look at our own vices. If we do not want others to know or talk about our vices, then why should we do so? Even when we notice someone's faults, we must remember that he or she also has good in them. Rather than castigating wrong behavior, it is better to recognize the good and praise a person for that. In doing so, we will help him improve and become a better person. And most important, seeing the good in others is a source of heartfelt pleasure for us.”
The professor then said, “Thievery, and other dark things, only come when we fail to see the good in people. Those who we have abandoned then turn on us, and on society. Ponder this.”
The parents and the students left the lecture with a lot to think about.
After the speech, the founder of the school was still concerned that parents would not want to send their students to a school run by an admitted thief, for the founder had proclaimed loud and wide that his school was run only by those with the highest integrity. But over the next year, the school increased its membership even more.
Such is the power of light when it is recognized in others over the power of dark to punish.
What do you think?
THE POWER OF LOVE
By Khurshid Ali and Kenneth J. M. MacLean
Once upon a time a very loving family came upon ill fortune. They lost all their belongings and money, and in the end even the house they lived in was taken by the bank so that the family became homeless.
However, the father, the mother, two sons, and two daughters were united in love. The parents respected their children and the children loved their father and their mother.
The father said, “God is kind and our bond of love is strong. This misfortune is only temporary. It is a trial for us but we will stand up to it and come out successful.”
The weather was warm. Three miles from the neighborhood there was a small forest. The family had nothing. It was either go downtown to the homeless shelter, or live temporarily outdoors in the woods. The father said, “We will go to the forest. There we will make a temporary hut and try our luck. I will seek work in the city and when our good days come, we will take back our house and live in it again.”
The father was very confident because he believed in the power of love.
So they all piled into the car with some canned goods and drove to a small dirt parking lot that bordered the woods and went into the forest. While they were looking for a suitable place, the family saw a small clearing among a stand of trees with deadwood from a fallen tree that they could use for fires. A small stream ran through the clearing. They thought this was a good place, so near that tree they put all their belongings and took a rest. The father, who was a carpenter, began weaving tree branches together to form a small hut. While this work was in progress they saw a very unusual looking bird sitting on a tree branch.
The family was hungry so they decided to prepare some food.
The father asked the son to go and collect some wood so that they could make a fire.
The bird on the tree was watching this. He said “Ha ha ha, what a bunch of losers you are!” But the family did not care and went on with their work.
The father told the daughter to take the pail and to go to the stream and fetch some water.
“Yes dad, I will do it.” She took the pail and went to the stream and filled it up.
The bird began to laugh again at the family.
The family did not pay any attention to it and went on with their work. Soon the father had made a snug little shelter and covered the roof with boughs from an evergreen tree to keep out the rain. The family stood outside their hut and admired it.
The father asked his wife to make some food. “Yes my dear I will do it. We have enough canned goods to last us for a while.”
The bird laughed very loudly. “What will you do when your food runs out?”
The father looked at the bird. This was a very unusual bird, large and brightly colored. The father said, “Oh, no problem. When our food runs out we will catch you, kill you, and then cook you.” Then he spoke to all members of the family. “This bird looks tasty. Let us catch him and cook him right now.”
The family all said in unison: “Yes dad, let’s do it!”
Hearing this, the bird became frightened. He said, “No no, please don’t kill me. I am a poor bird, but I know here in this forest there is a place where a treasure is buried. I will lead you to that treasure.”
The father agreed and the bird flew away. The family followed. After a half mile of walking there was a black stone, the bird asked them to turn over the stone. Under that stone was a hole and when they dug into the ground they found an ornately enameled box. Inside the box were two oilskins, each containing an ancient manuscript upon which maps were drawn. The family was very happy and they thanked the bird. The father took one of the manuscripts, leaving the other in the box. He drove to a bookseller in the city that sold rare manuscripts and showed him the map. The bookseller was astounded. “Do you know what this is?”
The father shook his head. “It is valuable, I’d stake my life on that.”
“Valuable indeed! This map is at least 300 years old and should fetch a great price. If you will permit, I will auction the map for some collectors I know, and take 10% of the proceeds.”
This was agreed. The old map fetched an astounding price, enough for the family to pay the debt on their house and move back in. The family was grateful and began to live a happy life once more.
Their neighbor saw this with surprise. One day he asked how had it all happened. The mother told the story of how they were going to live in the forest until the father could find work. She told him about the unusual bird and how it had made fun of them. “When we threatened to kill him, it led us to the treasure.”
The neighbor thought they could do the same. So they went to the same forest and found the tree where the bird was sitting. They found the shelter. But the family had forgotten to bring food and it would be dark soon. They didn’t want to walk all the way back to the car and decided to spend the night.
The father said, “We are hungry, we need something to eat.” He asked his son, “Go and collect some wood so that we can make a fire.”
The son said, “Why should I go? You are sitting and not doing anything, you do it.”
The bird laughed.
The father became angry. “You stupid bird, who are you to laugh? This is a family matter.”
Then father then said to the daughter, “Go and fetch some water with the pail.”
The daughter said, “Fetching water is work for a man. Let my brother do it.”
The bird laughed again. The father said, “You scoundrel, shut up!”
The father asked his wife to cook something, for they were all hungry.
His wife said, “You fool! We have no food, we didn’t bring any.”
The bird said, “You have nothing to cook, what will you do? You are a very stupid family. I know beggars smarter than you.”
The father became enraged. “We will catch and kill you and then cook you if you don’t show us the treasure!”
The bird said, “Ha ha ha, I am not afraid of you people. You are not united, you squabble and bicker and don’t cooperate with each other, you can do nothing against me.”
“But you showed that other family the treasure! You must show us too.”
The bird said, “For that family I had great respect, for they were united in love and did not complain about their diminished circumstances. If that family had decided to catch me, they would have done so easily. But you people are stupid and I have no liking for you. Get away from here!” The bird flew away, laughing.
This family spent a miserable night in the woods. In the morning it began to rain. They had to trek three miles back to the parking lot, arguing and blaming each other all the way.
Love isn’t just a concept. It results in harmony and cooperation, and sometimes, even good luck.
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Ken is a freelance writer and
editor who lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA. Since
childhood, Ken has been thinking about the Big Picture
and how to increase spiritual understanding in the