It’s your first day at school and you arrive full of trepidation. Your older brothers and sisters have told you that the headmaster is very strict and that he’d beat you for the slightest misbehaviour.
Your parents, however, have told you that this school is a really good place for you, you will learn a lot of useful things there, and the headmaster is there to ensure that you learn what you need to learn. He’s there to help you grow.
At school you meet other kids who have heard different stories at home.
Joe has heard that the headmaster is really nice, and if you’re naughty he pats you on the head and treats you to an ice cream. “He says he understands why you were naughty and he doesn’t mind,” says Joe.
Jim has heard that there isn’t a headmaster at all at this school. “Our parents made him up, they wanted to scare us, to make us behave,” says Jim.
“Oh, really?” you say, “so who tells us off if we’re naughty?”
“Nobody,” says Jim. “You can do what you like. You can go hit that boy with the glasses and nobody will do anything.”
That sounds great, you think to yourself. Then one of the big boys comes along and pushes you to the ground and proceeds to punch you all over. You’re hurting and you’re crying and… you want someone to tell that boy off. You want someone to punish him. You want justice.
There’s a girl in your class who has already met the headmaster. That’s because she’s one of the headmaster’s children.
“So he isn’t just someone our parents made up?” you ask her.
“No,” she laughs, “he’s for real.”
“And is it true that he is really strict and doesn’t allow people to be naughty?”
“Yes,” she smiles, “it’s true. He wouldn’t say it’s okay for that boy to push you to the ground and beat you up.”
“But… someone else said he’s really nice and he gives ice cream to naughty children…”
“Ah…” she says, and there’s pain in her eyes. “You’ve heard about that…”
“So is it true?”
“Those who are really sorry – yes, if they’re not just saying it but they really mean it, if they understand that what they did was wrong and they want to stop doing that, then…” she gulps, and you can see tears in her eyes.
“Then he takes the beating for them. And he gives them an ice cream.”
Now you’re beginning to understand.