My wallet was stolen last week. Well, not exactly my wallet... I'll explain. I went to the climbing gym early in the morning. I unwittingly left my wallet sitting in a very public cubby. Then I went to work and was busy until late in the afternoon. That evening, I was going to go to a sewing club and needed to get some supplies so I went to get my wallet out of my climbing gear where I thought I left it. It wasn't there. Shit. I called my wife. "Have you seen my wallet?" "No," she replied. The retracing of steps began. Nothing. I called the gym, no one had seen it, which made sense since I remembered grabbing it from the gym. Where did put it? I searched my office and my house, and my vehicles. Nothing.
Then came a phone call from my bank. "We have unusual charges coming in on your account. " The words no one ever likes to hear. Turns out it was about a hundred bucks on an xbox account. Twenty minutes later, the gym called. "We have your membership card, it was just turned in." Sweet! I thought that maybe my wallet was still there and the thief just took the debit card and sixty dollars cash. That's not too bad. So I raced to the gym, excited to get my passport, drivers license, medical card and other important things back, then I could proceed to replace the debit card and move on.
When I arrived, they literally had only my membership card. No wallet. They said they had looked all over and there was nothing else and someone had found my card and turned it in. Shit. Again. This is getting weirder by the second. So I decided to do my own investigative work and looked around the cubbies and where I had been in the gym. Voila. I saw my wallet in a cubby. I got all excited again, and grabbed it, immediately feeling that it was empty. My heart sunk. Replacing a driver's license, passport, and medical card is not the easiest of tasks, not to mention securing my identity in case this thief was planning on selling my info. I kept searching, through garbages, around the building and everywhere I thought someone might ditch the documents and keep the money. Nothing came up, and it was 5:30pm on July 3rd. There wasn't going to be any progress for about thirty-six hours when the gym could look through all of their footage. Sixteen cameras in a 10 hour day. That's a lot of film to look at. So, I decided to go about enjoying my Fourth of July and forget about it since there was nothing I could do.
The morning of the fifth rolled around and I was up early and on it. I immediately went to the bank, replaced my debit card and got records of the fraudulent transactions. I went to the gym to see if they had seen anything on the footage yet. Nothing. I called the police and reported the theft. I went into the DMV planning on sitting there all day to get a replacement drivers license and was done in thirty minutes, which if you know Bozeman DMV, this is a miracle. I had fixed some of the worst missing items and it wasn't even 11 am yet. I was feeling pretty good. I also knew that with enough persistence we were gonna get the address and identity of the offender from Microsoft once the police showed them the fraudulent charges and the bank confirmed they were fraudulent. I was gonna get this person and get 'em good.
That day I had a business lunch and during the lunch, my phone rang and rang and rang in my pocket. I was ignoring it because I was at lunch, but the third or fourth call, I excused myself and told my companion that it must be very important so I answered and it was the Deputy on the case. "We have good news, Mr. Barney, the gym has footage of who took the contents of your wallet and has located them and called them. The bad news is, the perpetrators are eleven and eight year old brothers." Ah! This explains all the odd bits of trail left behind coupled with the xbox charges. The Deputy went on to say that I could get everything back within the next couple of hours if I didn't press charges and detailed a plan to scare the kids by bringing them in and questioning them very seriously. I agreed that this was the best plan, as I felt that the humiliation in front of the gym and parents and the cops was probably a pretty good dose of wisdom for such young boys.
We outlined a plan as directed by the Mom. The Deputy would bring the boys in, then she would make them go to the gym and return the contents of my wallet there, and then the Mom would bring the boys to me and they would return the money that they would have to work off through the summer. Maximum visibility and humiliation comin right up.
A couple of hours later, the Mom called me and asked where we could meet. I said that I was at Costco and they could meet me there. She said they were on their way.
When I went to the front to meet them, I saw them long before they saw me. Standing by the front door sort of scrunched uncomfortably together. The oldest boy saw me next and proceed to blow my mind by walking forward with zero prompting by Mom and professing his deepest apologies as he handed me the hundred bucks in check form. At some point he started crying as the intensity of facing a stranger that he had hurt welled up. He also intimated that it was his idea and his little brother just went along with it. I figured as much. I was looking at an eleven year old kid who was showing more bravery than most men that I know. Yeah, he made the wrong choice. He wronged me. But he was brave enough to take full responsibility for his actions and look everyone in the face involved and make it right. I told him as much. He asked if a hug was possible. I stooped down and gave him a hug and repeated that he had done the right thing and being brave in the face of your own mistake is nothing that a child can pull off. That's grown up stuff right there.
So the moral of the story is, I got my stuff back, and a little tiny trial for me turned into a massive learning experience that will shape this kids future and be a building block for him to be a more honest caring and loving individual who is likely to never steal again. I walked away feeling very good about the whole situation, knowing that many people would have crushed the kid thinking that the full penalty of law would be best. I disagree. In a beautiful community such as Bozeman, there is nothing like dealing with our problems one on one with compassion and mercy.