How Kindness Transformed a Thief

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It’s not easy for people to change their ways once they’ve become set in them, but an ancient story shows that it is indeed possible.

Mr. Wang Lei (141 AD – 218 AD) was a well-respected scholar, who was known for his virtue. He opened schools and promoted righteousness among people. Under his influence, people strove for the good and stayed away from evil. People would even resolve conflicts peaceably among themselves, because they were ashamed to let Mr. Wang know that they had done wrong.

Once, a thief was caught for stealing a cow. The cow’s owner felt the thief had confessed sincerely and decided to let him go.

The thief asked the owner, “I was lost and didn’t know how to live a virtuous life. Now I have decided to be a new person. Since you have pardoned me, could you please not let Mr. Wang Lei know about it?”

Later, the story made its way to Mr. Wang anyway. He was happy that the thief made the right decision, so he sent some clothes to encourage the thief for taking up a righteous lifestyle.

A few years later, an old man was walking down the road carrying a heavy bag. Suddenly, a man came up behind him, took the bag from him and carried the bag for twenty miles without saying a word.

The old man was very thankful and invited the stranger to his home for a rest. But the man just laid down the bag and left, without even telling the old man his name.

A while later, the old man realized that he had lost his sword while he was out. Fortunately, a man had kept watch over the sword, waiting for the owner to come back and get it. When the old man came back for his sword, he realized that the young man who had kept watch over his sword was the same person who had carried the bag for him!

The old man was very grateful.

“I have never met anyone this kind. Please let me know your name and I’ll tell Mr. Wang Lei about you!” he told the young man.

When the old man told Mr. Wang about him, Mr. Wang found out that man was the thief he had given clothes to, many years ago.

寬容仁善 感化盜賊

古代有個人叫王烈,通透豁達,有識人之明。

當時國中有人偷牛,被牛的主人捉住了。偷牛的人說:「我以前迷惑不知該走怎樣的人生路,從今以後改過自新。您既然已經赦免、寬宥了我,請不要讓王烈(這位賢人)知道。」後來,王烈得知此事,特意贈給偷牛的人一些布,獎勵他改過知恥的善念,鼓勵他。

過了些年,有個老漢挑著很重的擔子行路,有人替他挑擔走了數十里路。老漢要邀請他到家裡去,他放下擔子就離去了。問他姓名,他不說。

老漢又往前走,在路上丟失了劍。有人在路上拾到了劍,本想放置在路邊、離去,擔心後面的人拾走,就守在路邊等候,直到晚上。劍的主人──老漢返回,見到寶劍失而復得,發現守在路邊、歸還劍的人,就是之前替他挑擔的好心人。老漢攬著恩人的衣服說:「您之前替我挑擔,我不知您的姓名。現在您又守在這裡歸還我的劍。沒有人像您這樣仁義。請告訴我您的姓名,我要告訴王烈(這位賢人)。」他就把姓名告訴了老漢,離開了。老漢告訴了王烈,王烈說:「我沒見過世上有這樣的仁義人。」讓人查詢,原來是昔日的偷牛人。

正是因為王烈贈送給偷牛人布匹、鼓勵他改過向善,偷牛人才變成了替人挑擔、拾到寶劍歸還的仁善人啊。把盜賊感化成好人,也許只有在古代才有這樣的事啊。

參考資料:《太平御覽 卷九百 獸部十二 牛下》宋 李昉

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