I learned my first lesson about forgiveness in grade 5. I have a cool story to go with it too.
A little boy in my grade 5 class one day brought in a live turtle. He had planned on putting the turtle in the pond at school, because his parents didn’t want him to keep the turtle as a pet anymore. The pond was the home to at least 15 other turtles that live there, so it’s a natural choice of a new home for this turtle.
A little girl in the same grade 5 class had always wanted a pet turtle, but her parents won’t let her have one. So when the boy brought the turtle to school, it made her want a turtle even more. She thought that he was essentially giving the turtle away, so she should just take it from him.
The girl waited for everyone to go to the morning assembly, and made up an excuse to skip the assembly. She was in the classroom all by herself. While everyone was gone, she went to the boy’s seat and took his turtle from the bucket, and put the turtle in her cubby. She stole the turtle.
Her plan was to smuggle the turtle home after school, hoping nobody will notice. She figured the boy wouldn’t be too upset that the turtle is missing, because he was about to release it anyway.
When everyone came back from the morning assembly, the girl tried to act casual. The boy returned to his seat, looked into his bucket, and exclaimed, “My turtle is gone!” This started a commotion in the classroom. Everyone started looking all over the classroom for the turtle. The girl said to him that the turtle must have climbed out of the bucket and escaped. He didn’t really think that was possible, so he kept searching. Some kids gave the girl questionable looks, and she just looked away.
The little boy wanted to look in everyone’s cubby to make sure the turtle wasn’t in there. The teacher gave him permission to look in everyone’s cubby. The girl went and stood in front of her cubby and said the turtle wasn’t in it.
He checked behind the door of every cubby. When he finally approached the little girl’s cubby, he said politely, “Excuse me, please let me check your cubby.” Her face turned beet red. She stepped aside. She said to him, “If you find your turtle in my cubby, I didn’t put it there!”
OMG, she was such an idiot!
He opened her cubby door, and there was the turtle. She ran back to her seat and avoided making eye contact with anyone.
I was waiting to hear the ridicule and accusation from this little boy. I mean, he had every right! This girl stole his turtle, hid it, and pretended it wasn’t her doing.
Instead, all I heard was the little boy saying, “Thank you, everyone. I found the turtle.” He did not have a mean word for her, he didn’t make fun of her, and he didn’t even ask her to say sorry. I couldn’t believe it! He was just going to let it go!
What surprised me even more was that at recess, he invited her to go release the turtle into the pond together! I heard another kid say something about the girl stole the turtle. The little boy actually defended the girl. He said, “She said she didn’t take it, so let’s just leave it like that, ok?” I think he knew that she stole his turtle, but he didn’t see the point of crucifying her for it.
So this all happened in grade 5. It was a very memorable day for me. I have since forgotten the name of the little boy, but I will always remember the way he treated the little girl who stole his turtle. He forgave her even before she apologized. In fact, I don’t think she ever did apologize. She went to the pond with him at recess to release the turtle together, and she was very grateful that he didn’t make her feel worse than she already felt.
For the rest of her life, this little girl will remember being freely forgiven by this little boy in grade 5. I know this because that little girl was me.