Stolen Bike? One Woman’s Thoughtful Response
We have had some fortunate luck with bikes gone missing in our family. It only takes one unintentional slip – “I’m going in to get a drink and I’ll put my bike away after that” – to create tragedy, and on three different occasions, we’ve had to deal with a stolen bike.
The first bike had been registered and licensed with the local police department (something I recommend, and you’ll see why). It disappeared from the yard one fall afternoon, and my son, distraught because he had paid half of the cost for the bike, spent most of the evening in tears. When the doorbell rang about a week later, I was surprised to see an officer standing on the front porch with the bike. It was muddy and the handlebars were a little bit askew, but otherwise, the bike was intact. “An older gentleman saw the bike in the river and called us to see if we could track down the owner,” the officer said. We never knew the name of the man who had discovered the bike, but I’ve though of him often and wonder if he knows how happy he made a little boy.
A second bike disappeared from the school playground. Another son always chained up his bike when he arrived at school in the mornings, but made a habit of dialing in the bike lock combination all except for the last digit so that he could make a quick getaway after school. One day, it just disappeared. Almost a month later, I was at school for a late PTA meeting after classes had dismissed for the day. I noticed a bike leaning against the corner of the school that looked familiar. Sure enough, it was my son’s stolen bike. The combination lock was still wrapped around the bike seat. I simply put the bike into the back of my car and drove it home. We never knew who had taken it. I think I felt some righteous indignation at the idea that whoever had ridden it to school that day was going to return to find that it had vanished. Revenge. I’m not sure how that played out. Maybe it was some child who truly needed some transportation. I’ll never know.
The third bike was a brand new girl’s bike complete with pink and white training wheels and sparkly handlebar tassels. A gift for our 4-year-old, I was excited to bring it home to her and really cross when it disappeared only a couple of months later when she took it outside one one of the first spring afternoons when it was warm enough to ride. Who would steal a 4-year-old’s bike? No teenage prankster could have any fun with it. It was too small to provide anyone with useful transportation. Within a week, a neighbor called me. She had been driving through a nearby trailer park and saw a dozen bikes parked in the front yard. She thought one of them might be my toddler’s missing bike. I drove over to check. Sure enough. It still had crepe paper in the wheels that my daughter had used to decorate the bike spokes. I put the bike in the car and drove back home. I can’t even remember whether I reported the stolen bike to the police. I suspect that many of the other bikes in the yard had “gone missing” from their owners’ back porches or driveways.
When I saw this story about a woman named Eileen Remedios, I had to admit her methods were a little more generous than my own. She discovered that her bike had been stolen, and then, in a stroke of “giving the benefit of the doubt,” she left a note taped to the post where her bike had been locked up:
“Please return my bike. It is old but loved and will be frightened without its owner.”
Amazingly, the bike was returned soon thereafter with a note written inside of a Christmas card:
“A great big fat…SORRY. Merry Christmas from the reformed bike theif (I never mistreated it).” (original spelling).
Eileen countered with a thank you of her own:
“To the sweet bike borrower: Thank you for returning my bike! She said she had a nice time but glad to be back with me.”
Eileen’s generous response to the situation has made me wonder: How can thoughtfulness help take some of the pain out of moments when we feel betrayed and violated by someone else’s poor judgment? How can slowing down and choosing a different response give a thief, who might typically be kindhearted and rational, an opportunity to make restitution for an injustice they had committed in a moment of thoughtless desperation? Would I have learned something that could have eased my own indignation if I had been slower to judge someone else’s actions as purposely thoughtless? What was the real story of the person in the trailer court with a yard full of bikes? Was there a child who desperately needed a way to get home one afternoon after school who knew my son and had planned to ask permission to use his bike but had just forgotten? What prompted an older gentleman to slog through the mud to rescue an abandoned bike from a river? With the heart of a caregiver, Eileen Remedios has given us all a lesson in generosity.