[xtypo_dropcap]T[/xtypo_dropcap]he following story is about a man named Chen Shi from the Eastern Han Dynasty. He was a person of high moral character and his neighbors respected him very much. He upheld a high moral standard for himself, and set strict moral requirements for his children and grandchildren. Chen Shi would often seize opportunities to teach his children and grandchildren to be good. The following story is about one of those opportunities.
A Thief in Hiding Learns a Valuable Lesson
There was a major flood one year and Chen Shi’s village was inundated. Many people had nothing to eat and had to go around begging for food. Over time, there were more thieves in the village. Consequently, there was no sense of security and harmony among the villagers.
One night, a thief sneaked into Chen Shi’s house when he was away. When the thief was about to steal some valuables, he suddenly heard someone cough outside of the house. The thief thought to himself, “Oh my goodness, the owner is home! Where can I hide?” He was very scared! But the more he felt scared, the harder it would be for him to find a hiding place. Luckily, the thief found a large pillar in the study room to climb up. He quickly shuffled up the beam and perched on a roof beam. Holding on the beam with both hands tightly, he dared not to breathe. He thought: “This is a safe place. The owner won’t catch me here. I’ll stay here for now and climb back down after the owner falls asleep. I can take his things safely later.”
In the meantime, Chen Shi walked into the study room with a lantern. Just as he was about to start reading, a piece of blue cloth hanging from the roof beam caught his eye. Chen Shi nodded twirling his beard and left the study room with his lantern.
During this time, Chen Shi's grandchildren were playing outside. Chen Shi asked his maid to call his grandchildren into the study room. Both his grandchildren and children came to the study room. Chen Shi spoke sternly to them: "My children, upholding high moral character is fundamental to being a good person. Regardless of situation or how difficult life is, we should set strict standards for ourselves, and never do bad things for any reason. Do you remember? "
"Yes!" replied Chen Shi's grandchildren loudly. But none of them knew why Chen Shi called them just to say this. They looked at each other puzzled and guessed that there must have been something happening that was a big deal!
"There are some bad people who were not born bad people. Because they did not practice self-restraint, gradually they developed some bad habits. Later, these bad habits couldn’t be corrected even though they wanted to. Then they really did become bad people.” Chen Shi continued speaking to his grandchildren, “For example, the gentleman who is now on our roof beam belongs to this category. You can’t do bad things just because of temporary poverty. Did you know that if you do bad deeds, not only will you become poorer, you will also end up with poor health?"
The thief on the roof beam was surprised by Chen Shi’s words and realized that he was caught. At the same time, he was touched by Chen Shi’s words. He thought to himself: “What a benevolent man! Not only did he refrain from capturing me earlier, he even took the time to teach me how to be a good person. I should thank the owner.” The thief climbed down the pillar, knelt before Chen Shi and said, “Sir, what you said is very good and I know I did wrong. I will never commit theft again. Please forgive me.”
Chen Shi replied with a smile, “You don’t look like a bad man. You shouldn’t do bad deeds even though you are poor. Committing bad deeds will make you poorer and you will become sick as well. Please think about it. It is not too late for you to be a good person.”
Chen Shi turned to his eldest son and said, “Please see if there is some food available. Give some to this gentleman.” Chen Shi’s eldest son went to retrieve some food and brought back a bag of rice. The thief accepted the bag and was moved to tears. As he left Chen Shi’s home, he repeatedly cried, “Thank you, thank you. Your whole family is really kind. I will never steal anymore.”
From that day on, the thief never stole again. He even shared the story with his neighbors. Strangely, from then on, there were no longer any burglaries in the village and it was extremely safe. And to everyone’s surprise, the long standing flood suddenly receded. The villagers went back to working hard again and lived a prosperous life.