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.
參考資料：《太平御覽 卷九百 獸部十二 牛下》宋 李昉