Once upon a time, I was an undergrad in the University; specific for this story, I am referring to my sophomore year in Uni. I had a dear friend at the time - let's call her "Jessica". When I was sick, Jessica would buy me medicine and make sure I had food to eat. When someone was inconsiderate or rude to me (a cashier at the local Walgreens pharmacy, a catty or mean girl or classmate, etc), Jessica would step in and put that person in "check". When we were walking on Bourbon Street (a local tourist attraction in New Orleans) one night and the strap on my sandal broke, Jessica gave me her sandals and decided to walk the rest of the way back with my broken one. She was that type of friend.
One day, we were chatting in my dorm room and Jessica mentioned her struggles in math class and how terrified she was of failing the course. Her only chance of passing the class was dependent on her getting an "A" in the upcoming final exam. I remember the next moment perfectly; Jessica turned to me and asked if I would help by taking the exam as her on the day. The teacher wasn't scheduled to show up on exam day (he would be sending a random graduate assistant to stand in) and the G.A.'s job would be to simply sit and monitor the class during the exam and collect the exam papers at the end, as well as check each student ID to match the name on the ID with that on the exam paper. I was against this idea from the get-go. I told Jessica "no" several times. I had never done such before and didn't intend on starting then. But, she pleaded (to the point of tears) and eventually my concern for her as a friend outweighed my sense of reason. And since we were both dark-skinned girls that sometimes got confused for one another by strangers, we figured I could easily pass off myself as her, using her ID.
Exam day came. I showed up to the class, noticed the random G.A. at the front of the room ("thank goodness...I don't know this person", I thought), sat at one of the desks and proceeded to take the exam as "Jessica". Things seemed okay at first. I had taken the class in the previous semester and had gotten an "A" in it so I knew i would breeze through the exam fairly easily -- and the exam questions proved I was right. I answered all the questions without hassle, felt confident I was about to secure my friend an "A", and just as I was about to round up the last question, the unthinkable happened -- another G.A. came into the class to replace the former one. Problem? This G.A. I knew. She was an international student and we had seen each other once or twice beforehand at the International Students Office. I knew this wasn't good; there was trouble. So, what did I do? Something quite silly -- I decided to test my luck anyways. As the designated exam time came to an end and she asked all the students to submit their papers, I walked up in line and submitted the copy I had. She smiled at me (because she recognized my face) and asked me for my ID, as expected. I gave her Jessica's ID, hoping she wouldn't give it much thought. Wrong. She scanned the ID, gave me an odd look, and asked me to step aside. I was shaking inside.
I don die.
After everyone else had turned in their exam papers and left the class, she called me back over and asked me what was going on. I said nothing. This is where the grace of God comes in. She looked at me and said something to the effect of "I know you are not Jessica. I don't know why you did this but it was the wrong choice. I am supposed to report you but I won't. I won't because I've seen you before, you are a nice girl, you always smile when we cross paths, and the consequences of reporting you could cost you everything at this school. Please, don't do this again." And then she proceeded to tear up the exam paper and marked Jessica as "absent" on the attendance list. All I remember after that is continuously saying "thank you, I'm sorry, thank you, I'm sorry" through a sea of tears and then I left the class.
I made a stupid choice that day and did not walk down that path again. What I learned from the experience though are things that still serve as reminders in my life today that: 1. the grace of God is undeserved -- I deserved to be reported, possibly suspended/expelled but I wasn't 2. mercy begets mercy -- the G.A. that didn't report me performed a merciful act that day and she may never know it, but her action had a huge effect on my life and has led to many instances where I have shown mercy to others in return 3. always count the opportunity cost of decisions -- I loved my friend (and still do) but was my friend passing that math class worth me jeopardizing my position at that school, potentially getting expelled, disappointing my parents, wasting the money they worked hard for / invested to get me enrolled at that school, and more?
The answer is no.
Until the next post folks :)