Always Tell the Truth

Going to kindergarten was a major step in the life of a five year old. My brother, three years older, told me everything I needed to know to be successful. My mother and father also instructed me. It came in one word, ‘obey’. Whatever the teacher asked of me I was not to hesitate but do it as promptly as I could.

My teacher was a disciplinarian. She was well respected in our community and many parents felt that when their child left her kindergarten class he/she would continue with good listening and behavior patterns throughout their schooling.

It was during WWII and we were taught to respect the American flag. We learned ‘The Pledge of Allegiance” and we sang, ‘My Country ‘tis of Thee’. She wanted us to know what the colors stood for and the importance of the stars and stripes. As she was teaching, I listened carefully. On this particular day, she asked a question, “How many red stripes are on the flag? If you know raise your hand.” I knew the answer and I blurted out, “seven!”

At that she turned and looked in my direction. “What did I tell you to do? Who yelled out the answer?” There was complete silence. “Okay, you three come with me.” She pointed to me and my one friend who was on one side of me and my other friend on the other. She proceeded to instruct us, “When you can tell me the truth, you knock on the door and I’ll let you out.” She put us in the bathroom and locked the door.

It wasn’t long before my one friend said, “I didn’t do it.” She knocked on the door and the teacher opened it and let her out. Then my other friend said, “I didn’t do it either!” She knocked on the door and out she went.

Now I sat by myself thinking seriously about what I should do. I saw a window above the sink. I thought if I could climb up on the sink, open the window, I could escape! I tried, but the window was locked. I didn’t want to knock on the door and admit that I was the one who disobeyed by saying out loud there were seven red stripes on the flag. I sat on the toilet seat and waited.

Suddenly everything was quiet. I didn’t hear the voices of my classmates or the teacher. The afternoon kindergarten class had left for the day, along with the teacher. I sat quietly in the bathroom. I tried opening up the door but it was locked. I wasn’t scared. I didn’t cry. I just sat there thinking that I may have to be in the bathroom the entire night, or for the rest of my life! I worried about my mother and father and what they would say when they found out I didn’t ‘obey’ the teacher.

I saw that it was getting darker outside. Soon I heard someone coming. The bathroom door opened and there stood the janitor. He looked shocked as he asked me, “What in the world are you doing in here?”

I had to admit that I disobeyed the teacher by saying out loud there were seven red stripes on the American flag.

“Well,” he said, “we have to get you home! Your parents will be worried! Where do you live?” I told him I was only a block away from the school. He helped me gather my belongings and watched me as I began walking home.

In the meantime, my mother was worried. She called my friends to find out if I was with them. She walked the neighborhood to see if she could find me. She finally got in touch with my teacher who remembered she had locked me in the bathroom! Her explanation to my mother was that she was trying to teach me to tell the truth.

My teacher met with my mother and they were about to head for the school to get me when I walked into the house.

Everything turned out just fine. No one was permanently upset and I continued my kindergarten education. But you know, I’ll never forget how many red stripes there are on the American Flag! It is embedded in my memory and will be there forever! And wouldn’t it have been much easier if I had only told the truth?

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