The prisoner gathered his courage and offered the guard his own daily ration of bread through the cell bars.
The guard looked at the bread in the prisoner’s dirty hand and scowled. He opened the door and beat the prisoner with his baton, calling him a worthless dog, kicking him as he fell to the ground.
That night, the prisoner nursed his wounds, rehearsing his teacher’s emphasis to not ever be overcome by the evil of others, but to trust in the power of serving and loving them instead. The prisoner went to sleep hurting, skeptical, but resolved to brave love again.
That same evening the officer remembered his brutality toward the prisoner and was ashamed. He felt he had wielded his power in a way he wouldn’t later be proud of.
The next afternoon the bruised prisoner approached the door with that day’s ration of bread, as well as his bowl of pale broth. When the guard noticed him, he opened the door and swatted the food out of the prisoners hand and shoved him to the ground. “Keep your rations to yourself!” he shouted.
The prisoner spent the rest of his day angry and doubtful about his teacher’s words and all the years he’d spent learning them. He decided the teaching was unrealistic and was only making matters worse.
The guard spent the rest of his day angry and doubtful about his behavior. Would his own children be able to tell which was the righteous man, and which was unrighteous? The guard decided to break policy and would treat the prisoner with dignity, should he dare to share his food again.
On the third day the prisoner came to the window offering his daily ration of bread, a bowl of pale broth, as well as his once-a-week ration of cold coffee. When the guard saw him with the gifts at the door, he opened it, and stepped through. The prisoner braced for another beating. But the guard extended his hand and received the prisoner's gifts. He ate them eagerly. As he finished the broth and swallowed the coffee, he choked as his throat began to close. The soup and the coffee had been poisoned.
As the guard lay gasping and shaking on the floor, other guards came in to take their revenge on the prisoner, as well as all the other prisoners on the block. Both the guard and the prisoner, in their final moments before dying, knew their change of heart had been an error.