A broken pen, a sweeper's respect and my shame

I saw something that made me question my principles and morals. I don't think I have ever been so ashamed in my life.

Isbah Khurram July 12, 2013
It was a normal day at college. While two of my friends were playing table tennis, another friend and I were trying to disrupt their game by constantly throwing objects their way. This was routine for us - nothing unusual.

On this particular day, we started by throwing Nestle water bottle caps at them, then pen caps and when we ran out of the smaller pieces, we threw pens their way. Since we had a poor aim, these items were scattered all over the lobby but we didn't pay much attention to the mess we had made and continued with our little game.

However, half an hour later, I saw something that made me question my principles and morals.

A Picasso pen, worth Rs10, that we had tossed had cracked open and was lying on the floor when the college sweeper cleaning up after us saw it. He picked it up and examined it thoroughly. On discovering that it was working just fine, he mended the pen with a bit of tape before proudly placing it in his pocket and walking away.

I don't think I have ever been so ashamed in my life. My head hung low with the realization that 1) I had disrespected education and 2) that my friends and I showed absolutely no regard towards a fully functional monetary item, cheap as it may have been.

Moreover, I was stunned as well as pinched by guilt at how much value a Rs10 ball point could have to someone.

Losing a pen does not affect us adversely in any way whatsoever. If we lose a pen, generally we are able to replace it with several other carelessly bought pens without breaking a sweat. However, this incident made me understand that there are people around us who think twice before making that seemingly trivial purchase - who may consider a broken, stray pen a blessing because they may not be able to afford buying their own.

In all probability, few of us consider this reality before breaking and losing things which may be of little significance to us, yet hold a whole other meaning for others less privileged than ourselves.

I am ashamed of my role in this incident. The act of throwing a pen is disrespectful in itself. A pen should be held in great reverence- it is a means of facilitating learning. If we cannot pay due respect to a vital item for education, how can we expect to be recognised as an educated member of our society?

I am sure there are many who will agree with me when I say that we have become so engrossed in our lives that we forget to appreciate and give thanks for the little things that are so conveniently before us but not so easily available to others less fortunate than us.

This lesson, to me, is not just about a pen costing Rs10. There is a much larger message here. I feel that the thanklessness and indifference of our attitude towards all we possess challenges our basic morals and ethics. Is it fair of us to be dismissive about small comforts and luxuries just because they come so easily to us?

In this case, a sweeper gave my broken pen its rightful dignity. He knew what a privilege it is to be an owner of an item that begets education and acted in a much more educated way than i did myself. He knew the value of those Rs10 so he paid due attention to it.

As Richelle E Goodrich so articulately put it:
“Be not wishing and pining, but thankfully content. For it is a short bridge between wanting and regret."

We must make our choices wisely and avoid taking anything for granted. Before we know it the fortune wheel may spin the other way - it shouldn't take the loss of what we once had to teach us the true worth of blessings in our possession today!
Isbah Khurram A medical student at Shifa College of Medicine.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.


Reality Check | 9 years ago | Reply Sorry I addressed you as "Man" in the previous post. I meant "Miss".
Reality Check | 9 years ago | Reply Throwing pen does not constitute disrespect to knowledge or education. Knowledge is NOT dependent upon symbolic rituals (i.e. keeping pens safely and respectfully or kissing the physics note book) or else that sweeper would be a professor or your Principal. No problem with throwing pens or even joking with professors. But remember to save to couple of pens for the exam ;). And when you become a BIGGG officer, adopt a kid and pay for his/her education. This would be a better way to respect the knowledge and education. Morality is a good thing but do not over think the small things. Enjoy life.
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