I once took $20 to school in gr. 7 on my B-Day. We don’t celebrate birthdays by throwing big parties, but we give back. So that morning after prayer, my dad gave me $20 to donate where I’d like.

After class I noticed it wasn’t in my jacket...
I looked everywhere. It was gone. The worst part was, I knew the type of kid the boy who sat next to me was. I had no doubt he had taken it. That was my first mistake. But boy was it about to get so much worse. I confronted him about it and he denied it, but turned pink. He lied.
I was furious. I told him I knew it was him and that the money was for charity. I think I also expressed how terrible of a person he was for stealing basically from charity and then lying about it. That was my second mistake. But it was still about to get worse.

Much worse.
I returned to school the next day and told my teacher. It was a big deal, my teacher said. Anyways, the boy ended up admitting to it and agreed to pay the money back in increments. I remember judging him hard. That was my 3rd mistake.

But that still wasn’t the worst part of it.
Some time later (don’t know if it was weeks or months) I ended up riding my bike past a house he was walking out of. He didn’t see me. He was crying - redder than the day he said he hadn’t stolen. I could hear yelling. Scary yelling. Adult yelling.

I rode away.
The next day I approached the boy and told him what I had seen. He said nothing. I decided to forget about it. That was my fourth mistake. Sometimes silence is the greater evil.

Some weeks passed and the boy became quiet. I would try talking to him but he seemed broken.
We returned from some breaks (can’t remember which ones) and the boy wasn’t there. It was the first day back so it was high energy and I didn’t think much of it.

The next day he didn’t show up again. I asked my teacher and she told me he no longer went to the school.
Something was bothering me so I decided to swing by his house after school. I went up to the door and knocked. The boy answered. He looked terrible. And I mean TERRIBLE.

I made small talk about not seeing him in school, but was overwhelmed by the rancid smell from the house.
I asked him to go for a ride with me. He didn’t have a bike, he said. So I locked my bike in his yard and walked with him. That was a walk I can never forget.

They couldn’t afford their house so they were moving, he told me.

But he was just getting started. He looked so sad.
He explained how alcohol had destroyed their lives and that his father was abusive toward him and his mother. I asked what he meant by abusive.

But he said nothing. Instead he showed me the bruises and even some scrapes. I was mortified. His eyes were filled with shame.
He explained that they don’t have any money because his parents use it all on booze. That’s when I recalled the $20 he stole. To this day, the manner in which I treated him haunts me. He told me many other things - all of which made my stomach turn from horror and from guilt.
He begged me not to tell anyone because he would lose his family. But I told my teacher because I couldn’t just stay quiet. I don’t know the details after that except that I gave some officers my statement and spoke to some school admin over the next few days. They told me he
moved away and I never found out what happened. Not knowing was the worst part. Rumours fly but I don’t know for sure.

So I today googled his name and the city. A few years ago, a man precisely his age/description made news in an enormous drug bust with nearly 10 charges.
It destroyed me. Even if there’s a chance that that’s him - and the details all fit (he has an uncommon last name) I sit here wondering and gutted. When someone acts out, it’s usually not because he’s a terrible person. There’s almost always a wound behind it.
But it’s so easy to just judge a person instead of thinking of the wound causing them to behave the way they do. The world in 2020 has become even more inflammatory. Between cancel culture and calling people out for every little mistake, I wonder what will become of our wounds.
Between the socio-political upheaval and the global pandemic, it’s more crucial than ever before to remember that in the end, we all bleed the same. We are human beings, and if you believe in God like I do, we are all His creation.

We deserve the best of one another.
So I guess what I’m trying to say is that if we redirected our judgement toward our actions before committing them, rather than on the actions of others, both our hearts and our actions will become beautified, and safer for others.

And I hope to improve on that everyday.
You can follow @SabahatAliR.
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