Sometime ago, a young teen, I will call Eric, broke into an old truck parked beside the truck owner’s home. Eric pried the lock of the passenger door and managed to open it. His intent was to steal the stereo. However, someone saw him and called the city police. As the police came into Eric’s sight, he tried to run from them. But the police caught him.
Eric was placed on probation and the case was turned over to me to serve as a VORP mediator. I facilitated a victim-offender mediation between Eric, his father and the owners of the truck, an older couple.
I’ll call the couple, Frank and Marge. Marge’s elderly father also lived in the home. Frank worked full-time and Marge was self-employed on a part-time basis.
The mediation went well until Eric tried to minimize the damages to the truck. “It was only a seven dollar lock,” he said. Taking that moment, I decided to account for all the damages. I questioned Frank and Marge about how Eric’s offense affected them in terms of hard dollars (out-of-pocket expenses and losses) and soft dollars (other non-direct costs and losses):
“It may have been a $7.00 lock but there was body damage also. We had to take the truck to a body shop and it cost us $250 to have the lock replaced and the body damage repaired,” Marge explained.
Marge also said, “When I had to go to the courthouse to file paperwork, I had to cancel all my appointments. I lost a $100 of income.”
Marge continued, “Plus, I could not leave my 95 year old father alone when I went to the courthouse, so I had to hire a caregiver at $100 for the day.”
Frank added, “With all the police and insurance paperwork, body shop estimates, and running around, I had to take a vacation day time just to handle all the details.” ($250 cost)
Marge said, “We have had other things happen around here; things taken or broken. We began to think that we were singled-out in the neighborhood. We don’t feel safe.”
Frank and Marge went on to tell about all the work, stress, fear, and hassles they had to endure. Soon, the $7.00 lock turned into nearly a thousand dollars. I looked at the seventeen year old and he started to cry. “I had no idea,” Eric said.
Once we talked about the offense and all the hurt that Eric caused, I moved the mediation to a discussion about how to make things as right as possible. Eric was quick to apologize but he did not have the money to pay for all the damages.
This is the point in a mediation where typically restitution and grace start to come together. This is where an amazing expression of grace took place in this mediation.
Frank and Marge offered for Eric to work-off the damages. They asked Eric if he could come over to their house and do yard work, minor repairs, and wash their cars.
Amazing, the victims invited their offender into their private space and to be around their things. This situation started because Eric violated their private space and tried to steal their things!
Eric humbly accepted their offer. We then moved to the last part of the mediation. We talked about the future and how it would look for Eric, Eric’s father, Frank and Marge. Eric promised that this would never happen again and that he had learned his lesson.
Frank and Marge were pleased with Eric’s promises. But then Frank offered something that is rarely offered to an offender; another amazing expression of grace. “Eric, why don’t you and your folks come over to our place for a barbeque? Maybe if we knew each other, these things wouldn’t happen.”