Fraudulent advice

'May I ask you a question? It's unrelevant to the tuition.'

'Irrelevant,' he corrected, stressing slightly on the first syllable. It was becoming instinctive for him to correct people's speech, probably the teacher in him working overtime. He had better be more careful or he'd come across as a pompous know-it-all. Tentatively - was the kid about to ask a trick question - he added, 'Just ask?'

The kid started describing his dilemma. He was running well - could have received an award for his class in the school's sports competition - when one of his friends stumbled and fell. Instead of overtaking him, he slowed down and paused by his friend. This resulted in him not performing as he might otherwise have.

Was it right for him to stop? The kid asked.

The kid's question brought a thin smile to his lips.

It seemed so long ago that he himself had been plagued by such simple dilemmas. So long since he last grappled with minor issues that seemed so monumental.

Life used to be simple, he suddenly remembered. In the same dining room, a kid would worry excessively about offending one friend by doing - or not doing - a certain action while his dad would fret about how to maintain peace, maximise profits and reduce friction while working.

Black-and-white muddying into uneven fields of grey as one matures, he observed.

Taking a deep breath, he replied, 'it all depends on you. The older you grow, the more dilemmas you'd face. They'd become increasingly complex. Is the prize important to you? Is your friend more important to you? Would it make any difference it you have not stopped? Are you disappointing your classmates by stopping? These questions are intensely personal. You'd have to seek out the solutions yourself. I can't tell you what to think and how to react. It's up to you.'

'By the way, in the greater scheme of Life, this competition is pretty pointless. Forty down the years, you'd probably not remember much about it.'

He was flattered that the kid had asked him for advice. He felt virtuous, a paragon; his advice seemed sound.

Then, he felt like a fraud.