It seems unfathomable that any student would rob their teacher, their instructor, their coach, their mentor, their trainer, their sensei, their sifu. However, it happens more than you can imagine. Maybe way too much more than you can imagine.
How can something like this happen? Why would a student, who is given nothing but the best of the best when it comes to learning, rob his teacher?
Maybe the teacher gave him one too many free classes? Maybe the teacher gave him so much personal attention, that perhaps he figured he had so much personal money to rob him of too? Maybe all of the texting throughout the morning, day and evenings, including calls and personal visits was such a sure sign that he had so much more to give. Perhaps he had tons of money to go along with it too? Can it just be that the student had no scruples and was simply "playing loyal" all those many years, taking advantage and knowing that his teacher would pour into him day in and day out for years and years, never once thinking that he was being taken advantage of?
An old woman paints beautiful portraits and landscapes down by the pier under the bridge. Whenever it's not snowing or raining, whether it be winter, spring, summer or fall, she's out by the pier creating her masterpieces to sell, so that she could provide for her family, while also seeking loyal students to pass along her techniques to.
One day a young teenage boy comes up to her and says, "I've been watching you paint here by the pier for years! I'm also an artist but nowhere near your level. I would love to paint as good as you, or even half as good. If I paid you, can you teach me?"
Seeing that the young man had such a desire to learn and seemed truly eager to put in the effort, the old woman said to the young man, "Being that this is my craft, something I've learned, done, honed and dedicated my life to; it's what I do for a living. If I can sell my paintings, I can feed my family. However, I see that you have a true desire to learn and are genuinely interested in developing, I will teach you for free. All I ask is for you to send people my way, so that I can sell my paintings and teach more hungry students like you."
After the young mans first class, his mind was blown! He realized how much he thought he knew and how much he didn't know! He was super excited and could hardly control his composure. He went back home that evening and just couldn't stop telling his friends and family on how much he had learned. His friends and family being skeptical, thought perhaps he was overselling his teachers skills and maybe a bit too overzealous.
After classes with the old woman each day, the young man would spend hours with enthusiasm, showing his friends and family all he had learned day in and day out. His friends and family had to concede that his enthusiasm, vigor, passion and love for the lessons and his teacher were actually showing huge improvements and that he was actually becoming a better person and artist in the process.
This young mans passion for what he was learning became more and more insatiable. He would come earlier and stay later with the old woman, learning new techniques every day. He would then meet her at her house as she walked to the the pier. He would be walking her back to her house when their night was over. He would then call her at home, while with her family, so that she could explain the technique they went over that day. Lots of times, he would even ask questions while she would be in the middle of trying to get her painting sold.
Although the old woman was spending more time with the young man than she did with her own family; she found pride in knowing that the young man would one day pay homage to her work and legacy and that she was at least changing or contributing to someone that wanted to know the art that she invested her life into.
When teaching the young man his lessons, the old woman would correlate, for example, the ups and downs of mountain peaks and valleys, to the ups and downs of life. Or she would show him how to have less of a heavy hand when painting on canvas, rather, let the stroke of the brush come from his soul, through his legs, from his midsection, to his elbow and through his brush. This way the painting would have his individual essence oiled into the canvas with more room for color, excitement and vibrancy.
The young man came everyday, as sure as the sun would rise and set. His passion for learning removed him from his common courtesy of gratitude for the old woman, since he wasn't so much concerned with her and her life, rather, only his life and his well being and how this would only effect him. As long as he was learning, he quite literally could care about the old lady and her life's obligations.
Time had passed, and by now, the same friends and family that he would enthusiastically run to earlier at the beginning of his studies, telling them of his awesome teacher and how much he's been learning and how great she was, began to ask him if he could show them how to paint.
Knowing that business wasn't stable for the old woman and knowing that she had spent most of her time pouring herself into him and knowing that the very first thing she said to him before she ever started teaching him was, "All I ask is for you to send people my way, so that I can sell my paintings." and knowing that she had a family to feed and knowing that she's added more value to his life than just painting.
What did he do? You got it... He began teaching them and others what he was learning from the old woman. Not what he hasn't mastered yet, but what he was currently learning.
So the young man continued to go to his source of painting knowledge for free (the old woman) and then after classes teach his friends and family for money - even sold a few paintings in the process. Although he had not himself mastered the techniques and artistry needed to teach, nonetheless he was cashing in on all that he had received for free from the old woman.
Eventually as time went on, he developed a huge following and made lots of money in the process. New students of his would ask, "Where did you learn this from? Who's your teacher?" and he would nonchalantly say, "From and old woman I knew." He had now gotten too big for his own birches.
Now with all his new students, plus making lots of money and being a recipient and product of good-faith and selfless-seed-sowing, having all that he's learned for free this whole time, and becoming a well known teacher in his community, he couldn't help but wonder how many more students and how much more money he can get, if he would just learn more and more from the old lady.
The old lady, knowing from the very beginning that he had been taking the free painting classes and life lessons that she so graciously poured into him all these years and made for himself a lucrative lifestyle, one day asked him, "All these years together, have you been able to find any buyers for my paintings or maybe any new students such as yourself?" He answered, "Well, I have friends and family members that are very interested but their schedule doesn't permit them to come here."
Knowing that he had no conscience and was unwilling to admit the truth, she then told him of a friend that her daughter knew who was going to painting classes for years! She mentioned that her daughters friend had invited her to the class to meet her teacher. She took her daughters friends invitation and went. To her surprise, as she stood by the backdoor of the classroom, she saw that it was him, the young man, teaching.
His face dropped and turned as pale as vanilla ice cream. He now knew that the old woman had known all of this time.
She told the young man, that the biggest lesson she learned in life and thought she was passing along to him all those many years - was integrity. She knew those many years back, that she could have charged him for the lessons but thought it would be more valuable to teach him a skill that would make him so good at it, he would be running around the four corners of the world, spreading her name, trying to get her business, simply because he was proud to be her student.
She poured in and poured in, day after day after day, happy to pass along her skillset, learnings, teachings and techniques to a hungry student. She so heavily believed in the law of reciprocation and was hoping that if she continued sowing good seeds, she would reap good fruit.
See, the young man wasn't pointing a gun to her head and robbing her. He didn't break into her house and wipe her clean. Nope, he simply took the money from her the most conniving way one can be robbed - day-by-day and with a smile.
The very first thing thing she stipulated when they first met was "All I ask is for you to send people my way, so that I can sell my paintings and teach more hungry students." which is what she kept her word on. She taught and taught and taught, never once questioned the validity of his integrity but just assumed he would stick to his word, since he was gladly receiving free services from her for years!
Throughout the years, she assumed that he wasn't trying to get her any students or buyers for her paintings because he was solely focused on learning for himself. She never once imagined that he was taking students and buyers for his own selfish ambition, as he continued to learn from her for free.
So what's the big deal?
Great question. What is the big deal? Maybe it just never dawned on him that what he was doing was dishonorable. He didn't know that he was inadvertently and perpetually robbing her. So what's the big deal?
Maybe he just forgot his original agreement with the old lady - I mean, people forget. Maybe it was next on his list of things to do and perhaps just simply hadn't gotten around to it yet. Maybe he was building up a solid student base for himself, so that he can one day surprise the old lady with a slew of new students and buyers.
At the end of the day, everything we see or ever seen in life is all a matter of cause and effect. I mean, maybe if the old lady never gave the young man everything she worked so hard to acquire in her own life, for free, perhaps he would have learned to appreciate the value of what it means to pay for quality teaching.
Perhaps the young man could have seen the value of the artistry in the techniques or of the daily life lessons he learned from someone older and wiser than him. Someone who actually took him in because she thought he was worthy. Maybe he could have seen and appreciated the selflessness and undying integrity the old woman poured out of herself and into him throughout the years.
Maybe the old lady could have been less caring, loving and considerate to the young man and simply cut him out of her life early on when she knew he wasn't going to get her any new students or buyers, or when she knew that he was acquiring his own students and buyers, while still learning from her.
In the final analysis, the truth of the matter is that the old woman, although being the teacher, learned a valuable lesson even at her old age. You may be a teacher in one area of your life but you're never too old to get schooled by others - good or bad. You're never too old to keep your eyes and ears opened. You're never too old to experience yet again one more disappointment in life. You're never too old to forgive and forget. You're most certainly never too old to compare your integrity to another. Assume everyone has bad intentions towards and for you, but rejoice in the fact that you're not like that.
Not everyone is going to have your best interest in mind. As a matter of fact, most people could care less about investing or putting anything into your vision; even though it includes them. Their greed for self gratification blinds them of the benefits they would have received tenfold had they removed their greed of self, and would have seen that the vision of the teacher always included them.
It's a sad thing when one pours their whole self into a person, or in the case of this story, a student; only to find yet again, that the world is less and less like yesteryear. There was a certain honor, virtue, morality, decency, goodness and dignity that came along with caring for others. The law of reciprocation did not fail.
Unfortunately, these are different times, a different breed of morality. And in this me-centric, narcissistic, self-entitled and self-absorbed world we live in; we need to understand that honor to a teacher or even a parent, is all but a vapor in the wind. It was once here but surely now gone.
I've told my students, my friends, my family and even my own children... In an airplane, the pilot instructions, in case of an emergency, is always to help yourself first; then you'll be in a better position to help others. But if you help others first, they may thank that lucky stone that they made it out alive and never think twice about helping you.
Go out and still be nice. But be nice and smart.