All of the blood drained out of my body. All of it. Every drop. It pooled on the floor as I tried to disappear into an imaginary hole in the floor.
The rest of that class period lasted about four hours, I swear. I was flushed, but why wouldn’t I be? I was staring directly in the face of the end of my life…the last moment.
See, my parents were both teachers in the same school district. Mr. Thornton and his wife went to our church. So did the principal.
After class I made my way up to Mr Thornton’s desk. I had no idea what to expect, because Mr. Thornton was not predictable.
You know what he said? “I just wish you’d told me you didn’t understand what we’re doing. Why don’t you stop by after school and we’ll spend some time to get you caught up.”
That’s it? No impossible to understand ranting about feeling like a ton of bricks just fell on me?
I went back after school and he spent about a half hour patiently helping me get the concepts on the quiz. Then he gave me a different quiz and said, “Why don’t you take that home and give this another try?”
I said, “Mr. Thornton, that’s nice of you, but I don’t deserve another chance. I did what I did.”
And good old Mr. Thornton said, “Listen, everyone is allowed to make one stupid mistake in their life. Just don’t do that again.”
You know what? I felt like I was a math genius! I understood what was going on, and I was going to show Mr. Thornton that he put his faith in the right kid.
And I felt like that right up to the moment that evening when I took the quiz out. All that confidence vaporized as I realized that I had no idea where to even start.
Five questions, and the kid with the second chance aced two of them. That’s 40%-even I can do that math.
I don’t know if Mr. Thornton ever breathed a word of the episode to anyone. I told my parents years later, but if they knew about it they never let on.
The math help that Mr. Thornton gave me that day didn’t really sink in, but the lesson in kindness he gave me has been passed on to countless students who have heard me say, “Listen, everyone is allowed to make one stupid mistake in their life. Just don’t do that again.”