Former student returns compass stolen from SW Taiwan school decades ago

Package also contained apology letter, NT$2000 donation

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(Lantan Elementary School photo)

(Lantan Elementary School photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — An alumnus of an elementary school in the southwest Taiwan city of Chiayi has returned a compass he or she stole from the school as a child along with a monetary donation and letter of repentance.

The principal of Chiayi Municipal Lantan Elementary School, Wu Qing-xiang (吳青香), said Monday that the school received a package from a sender with the pseudonym "Chiang Xin-can (江心懺)," CNA reported on Monday (Sept. 23). In the package were a compass, NT$2,000, and a letter.

The letter states, “The school often held science camps back then when I studied there, which helped me cultivate a strong interest in astronomy. One day, while I was sweeping and cleaning up the science classroom, I saw the compasses, which I liked very much. I took one of them. As a small kid, I didn’t feel too guilty about what I did.”

The letter also mentioned that after growing up, Chiang realized that even though it was only a compass, it had been donated to the school for students to use. Chiang wrote, "Because of the despicable act I committed for selfish purposes, I've suffered from shame and guilt to this day."

The former student said they hoped the school would tell the story to schoolchildren to let them know that people who do bad deeds will experience a bad conscience for a long time, thus wrongdoings should be corrected right away.

Wu said that judging from the sticker on the compass showing it had been donated by the first chair of the Chiayi Astronomical Society, which was established in 1987, the author of the letter must have studied at the school some 20 to 30 years ago.

The principal felt touched when opened the package and decided to share the story at a school assembly to encourage students to be honest and courageous enough to admit mistakes they have made, according to the report.