“Because I heard you talking during the test, remember?” Uh-huh, I remembered all right. Helen had turned around in her seat to look at my answer, again, and I told her that she was not supposed to do that. Miss Jefferson had chosen just that moment to look our way.
“Miss Jefferson, I did not cheat on this test. Maybe we could take it again right now?” Well, that was just not going to happen; she had her cheater and the matter was over. Helen was to go on home and I was to stay after school and write “I will not cheat,” on the blackboard until the sentence filled it. Helen did not say a word to me as she left the classroom. During recess the following day, though, I asked her why she did not speak up and tell the truth. She asked me the same. Why had I not told on her? The answer to that seemed obvious to me—she was my best friend. But, if I were her best friend, why did she not speak up for me? Why did she let me get an F on my paper? She just never answered the question and walked away from me. No doubt “fear” was stronger than friendship to the distraught eight-year-old.
I felt the pain of being unjustly accused but, even more, I felt the profound sadness at having been betrayed by my best friend. Of course, as an adult, I can well-imagine how such a thing could have happened, but at eight years old, it was just an enormous pain in my heart.
For the rest of the school year I did not trust Miss Jefferson to “play fair.” As for my relationship with Helen, I cannot recall how things were during the remainder of that school year, nor if the breech of our close bond happened on that very day; but, I do know that from the Fourth Grade on, I had a different “best friend.”
Walking home that terrible day I could think of all kinds of things I thought Miss Jefferson, the adult, could have done. For example, she could have asked each of us directly if we had cheated before she pronounced her own judgment on the situation. I didn’t think that Helen would have lied to her if the teacher had just asked her if she copied my answers. I wondered if Miss Jefferson was already prejudiced against me. I had been so nervous that first day of school, seated with Helen in the front row of the classroom, that I upchucked my breakfast all over her clean floor. Or, was it that she preferred Helen’s ponytail to my short hair? Miss Jefferson had a blond ponytail, too. Maybe Miss Jefferson preferred the ponytail look to my ”Pixie” look?
Even as adults, when we have been dealt an injustice by someone, we can really come up with some off-the-wall possibilities of just why the person would have done that to us, can’t we? For a child, it is even more so when a teacher, a person of authority in their own life, is involved. It was a very long seven-block walk home that afternoon. This one experience gave me an opportunity to learn two of life’s most difficult lessons: injustice and betrayal. We live in an imperfect world and there are times when we must comfort ourselves with the knowledge that God knows the truth and He is our most important authority figure. Secondly, that God will never betray us no matter how “under pressure” it seems he should be! One of my most favorite Scriptures in all the Bible is:
Hebrews 13:5 “God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’”
Actually this was a quote from the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy 31:6, which was also used more than once in the Book of Joshua when Moses was speaking with Joshua to encourage him to press on and obey God.
Such a comfort to know there is Someone we can trust totally to play fair and not betray us!
*Names have been changed.
****Lessons from Fred: Do Your Own Work… Coming Tomorrow