Marshall Massey (author of the Earth Witness
blog) posted on Facebook this morning a reference to Matthew 18: 23-35
, a passage about forgiveness in the face of being owed money. Interesting timing since I am trying to sort out my feelings about an unsettling experience yesterday.
I had an appointment with my podiatrist, whose office building gives a discount for the valet parking lot next door. I gave my key to the valet, entered the building, stopped at the bathroom (relevant because it means I was in the building for longer than a minute), and then sat down to wait to be called. I decided to get my health insurance card out while I waited and discovered that my wallet was not in my backpack. Thinking I must have left it in the car, I went back to the parking attendant at the little booth, but they couldn’t find my key, which was my first indication that something was amiss. Another valet helped me look for my car, in which I found the first valet sitting in the driver’s seat with my wallet open on his lap, a credit card in his hand, as well as a piece of paper on which he had written my name, credit card number, expiration date, and security code. When I opened the door and confronted him, he claimed he had found the wallet on the floor and was just going to turn it in. He handed me the wallet and upon my insistence, the paper with my credit information on it (a dry cleaning receipt that had been in the door pocket). I took my wallet and paper and went back into the office, where I discovered that $20 was missing. I came back out and confronted the valet again, to more denials. He tried to make it sound like I was just a suspicious person who was falsely accusing him. Not getting any satisfaction, I went back to the doctor’s office because I didn’t want to miss an appointment that usually takes months to get. I had another appointment after that on the other side of town, which is why I had driven in the first place, so I kept on my original schedule. It didn’t really occur to me to call the police, though almost everyone I’ve spoken to since has said I should have. I should have asked to talk to a manager, too, but that didn’t really occur to me either, especially after a different valet came inside to speak to me. He asked me what had happened and shook his head sympathetically when he saw the paper with my credit card information written on it. He offered me two phone numbers, his and their manager’s, though he also asked to copy the paper with my credit information on it, something I found odd. When I got home I called the police and two officers came by the house to take a report, so at least there is a record of this incident if I have any credit problems in the future. I also notified both my credit card companies and am trying to figure out whom at the Podiatry hospital I should notify.
Although I’ve done the practical things I can to protect my credit, I still feel unsettled this morning. I find myself being mistrustful, double checking that I’ve locked the car door, wondering if the guy who gave me the phone numbers and asked to copy the paper was really trying to be helpful or was somehow “in on it,” and giving me the phone number of someone who wouldn’t really do anything, so I would drop it. I find myself wondering if I should have called the police right away, not so I would get my $20 back, but so this guy wouldn’t do the same thing to someone else–which is where I find myself getting confused about the concept of forgiveness. In the Matthew 18 story, both the men who owed money begged for forgiveness, and the message is clear: we should forgive. But owing money is different than theft, and this guy never asked for forgiveness. What if someone denies wrongdoing and might do the wrong again if unstopped? What is the loving response to a person who denies doing something we witnessed firsthand? I think forgiving in my heart is still appropriate, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t get the guy fired, too. I can’t help recalling that some money went missing from my car two years ago–just after my last visit to the podiatrist–and I remember pushing out of my mind my suspicion of the valets, not wanting to falsely accuse them. The memory of that incident makes me wonder if there is systematic theft going on here, which only feeds my mistrust of the man who gave me the phone numbers.
I think of myself as a trusting person. I’m finding the (temporary) loss of that self-identity to be much more disturbing than the loss of $20, though the prospect of the other kind of identity theft is unsettling, too.