Just after we got married, Travis and I were called to teach a Sunday School class of twelve and thirteen year-olds. It was a large class with a diverse make-up. The kids were funny and entertaining and always a little wound up, but they cooperated in class and we enjoyed the calling.
One of the students in the class was Ricardo. He had moved to Salt Lake from Mexico and had been in the United States less than a year. Their circumstances were difficult. His parents spoke almost no English, they shared a home with his uncle's family and they were very poor. But Ricardo was humble and sweet and worked hard.
It didn't take long to discover that although Ricardo could speak English pretty well, he couldn't read it at all. He struggled and was embarrassed when it was his turn to read in class. I worried about him. I spoke to his uncle who told me he was struggling in school because he couldn't read English. I offered to work with him on his reading and they gratefully agreed.
That was the beginning of about four months of reading with Ricardo. We met two or three times a week and practiced phonics and reading. We used the M&M method my parents had used to teach me to read. He worked hard and he practiced on the days we didn't read together. He was improving and I was happy to see him participating in class with more confidence.
One day, as we started our reading, I told him if he could read a certain number of pages with no mistakes, we'd stop at the store before taking him home and let him pick a candy bar. He was pleased and carefully read the required number of pages, smiling with pride when he finished.
We stopped at a convenience store on the way home and I told him to choose a candybar. He looked them all over carefully, weighing his options, then picked up a king-sized Butterfinger. I purchased the candy bar for him, but I'm not proud of the murmuring thoughts I had. I have to admit that I was a little annoyed. Money was tight for us, too, and a king-sized candy bar at a convenience store cost more than I had intended to spend. Why was this usually humble boy being selfish and greedy?
We continued to Ricardo's house, but a couple of blocks before we got there, we passed an old-model station wagon. Ricardo's father was driving and the car was filled with children--his brothers and sisters as well as a few cousins. His father pulled over and I turned the car around and pulled in right behind him. Ricardo said goodbye and hurried to the station wagon as his father came back and in very broken English thanked me for helping his son.
As his father thanked me and walked back to his car, I watched Ricardo get into the station wagon. Through the back window, I watched as he opened the candy bar and gave a bite to each of the children before he took the last, small bite, then turned to me with a wide smile and waved.
I was overcome with shame. I had begrudged him the large candybar, when his only motivation for choosing the large one was that there would be enough to share. I wished I'd have bought him two king-sized Butterfingers.
It was a good reminder to me that I shouldn't judge another's heart. We should afford people the benefit of the doubt.
"Perhaps the greatest charity comes when we are kind to each other, when we don’t judge or categorize someone else, when we simply give each other the benefit of the doubt or remain quiet." ~Marvin J. Ashton