The Yellow Note

It was 1:00 pm. At that moment, the school bell rang, indicating the end of the school day. The students packed up their schoolbags and prepared to go home. Suddenly, the teacher stopped me with the words, “Hans, please, stay a moment; I need to talk to you!”

The boys looked over at me a little curiously, as if to say, “Why would Hans need to stay behind? What is there to talk about? He, of all people, who is the best in the whole class – I wonder if he has done something wrong?”

I could already guess why I needed to stay after class. The day before, I had lied to my teacher. It had not been the first time that I had not stuck to the truth, but this time I had lied on purpose. How it had come to this, I will now share:

I knew that I was at the top of my class, and I wanted to stay there. Only in mathematics did I occasionally have some difficulties. Now, once again, a class test was scheduled, and I was a little afraid of it. The day before we were to take the test, we thoroughly repeated the individual groups of tasks and practiced various difficult arithmetic operations. In the process, I noticed that the teacher had apparently not selected the exam questions from a special exam book as usual but had put together his own questions and written them down, along with the results, on a small yellow piece of paper.

“You need that piece of paper!” went through my head. And so I kept looking at the little yellow piece of paper. At the end of the arithmetic lesson, the teacher put it in his arithmetic book and locked it in his desk. He left the key in the desk.

During the following recess, I sneaked into the classroom, briefly convinced myself that I was not being observed, unlocked the drawer of the writing desk, looked for the yellow piece of paper with the exam questions, and began to copy them down. As a precaution, I had immediately locked the book back in the drawer. I had almost finished writing when the break ended and the classroom door was pulled open. My classmates came in. They took no notice of me, however, because I often had to do small jobs for our teacher during recess. But now I didn’t dare to go to the writing desk. I closed my arithmetic book and secretly let the yellow slip of paper disappear in my pocket. Then the lessons began again.

Towards the end of the morning, I became very restless. What if I didn’t find an opportunity to put the yellow note back in its place?! At the end of the last lesson, however, I got rid of the note. I was all alone in the classroom again. The other boys had already left, and the teacher was called into the staff room for a few moments. But even now I didn’t dare go to the teacher’s desk, so I simply threw the little yellow piece of paper into the wastebasket. Then I went home.

The next morning, right during the first period, we wrote our arithmetic exam. I took my time doing it. I knew the correct answers, but I didn’t want to be the first to finish, otherwise I would surely have given myself away. – Everything went well.

But now I had to stay after class. The disappearance of the answer sheet must have been noticed! Did the teacher already have a certain suspicion?

“Hans,” he asked me, “can you tell me how my sheet of paper with the exam questions, this yellow piece of paper here, got into the wastepaper basket? I believe I put it in my arithmetic book yesterday morning. But yesterday afternoon at home, it was missing. I looked through my whole file folder, but I couldn’t find it. Then I even went back here to school and looked through my desk. And finally – think of it! – I found the note there in the wastebasket!”

The man looked at me questioningly. I clearly felt that he did not have the slightest suspicion against me. He apparently did not at all believe that I had anything to do with the matter myself. Therefore, it was not difficult for me to assure him that I had nothing to say about it; I should not suspect anyone without a reason. The teacher gave me a friendly nod, and I said goodbye.

The day after next, we got our papers back. Only a few boys had received an “A.” I was among them. We received special praise in front of the whole class.

But then, the days after this incident – I will not easily forget them. What was wrong with me? Hadn’t everything gone well? Wasn’t I still at the top of my class?

Yes, what was wrong with me? Whatever I touched, whatever I did, at school and at home, nothing gave me pleasure. My mother remarked a few times that I had changed so much. Was I sick, was there something that was bothering me? Did Mother suspect what was bothering me? I couldn’t pray anymore either.

I often thought of the arithmetic work and the little yellow slip of paper. Again and again I tried to forget the matter. After all, everything had gone well, so why start in on it again?

Everything had gone well. But – was everything really all right now? For several weeks, I kept silent. But then I couldn’t anymore. I spoke to my parents. My father turned pale, and my mother began to cry. I described the whole incident and did not embellish anything. My father read some verses from Psalms 51 and 32. I realized that I would not find peace again until I had also spoken to my teacher. My father did not say much more, but he prayed with me.

The next day, I spoke with my teacher. He looked at me for a long time. His disappointment in me was great. He could not utter a word at first. The pause was agonizing! And yet he forgave me.

In the evening after this conversation with my teacher, I could pray again and also confess my guilt to God, my deceit and my lies, and He also forgave me. From then on, I could rejoice again.

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