Earlier this year, my home state paper ran a touching story about a long overdue apology. It began:
When he was 12 years old, the boy did something he only later realized probably hurt his seventh-grade teacher. It was minor — he was, after all, a kid — but in time, when he was older and wiser, he wanted to find this teacher and apologize.
But the teacher seemed to have vanished. Over the decades, the man occasionally turned to the Internet, typing the teacher’s name into the search box. He never found anything. He never quit looking. A few months ago — by now nearly 39 years after this happened — he got a hit.
My throat was a bit tight by the end of the story, because I, too, was remembering a time or two in my childhood that I wish I could erase.
As it turns out, this seems to be a human constant. Responses to the article poured in, most of them apologies, some an expression of regret for an apology wished for but never received. There were so many responses that the newspaper ran a batch of them every weekday for three straight weeks.
In September, the story had spread so far that Reader’s Digest picked it up and reprinted it. The teacher has since heard from former students all across the country. “This has all been an unexpected pleasure,” he said.
As for the “boy,” now a middle-aged man — he and his former teacher have become friends, and keep in contact. It’s never too late to clear a conscience.