“My son and I had discussed writing a thank-you note. Do you think that would make a difference?”
I smiled as I took a long, deep breath and exhaled it before the receptionist, who had been studying me, replied, “No.”
“Well, thank you very much, then.” I breezed out of a nearby town’s middle school. It was a beautiful sunny day, the Monday after I’d returned from a business trip, and prior to my leaving, the weather had not been at all Springy. However, the buoyancy in my step after retrieving my son’s iPod following a lengthy search drained away quickly.
My son had called me during a rather inopportune time while I was away. I didn’t let on that I was busy and pressed to find the time to talk with him, and we were discussing a presentation he had to make the following day. Just as we were about to hang up, he threw in, “I lost my iPod yesterday.” This isn’t just an MP3 player – it’s the latest model of iPod Touch with a customized case that he received for Christmas. It is probably the only gift he remembers. It’s certainly the most late-model technology of the plethora of devices in our house, even including my work computer, though I only recently received it, I happen to know was configured last fall based on all the software updates that occurred as I was setting it up. My son took the iPod with him wherever he went, the value to him far greater than the sum of the cost of the device and all the apps it contained. I wonder how many of us Smart Phone users could go without our devices for nearly six whole days, most of those days not even sure we’d ever see the phone again?
“What do you mean, you lost your iPod. How could that happen?”
“I was sitting on the away bench doing my homework and when the other baseball team showed up, coach told us to move and it must have fallen out of my backpack.”
“Well, did you ask coach?”
“I don’t know. Mumble mumble… but I heard so-and-so say that he heard the other coach asking kids if they’d lost an iPod…”
“Well, I guess we need to get in touch with your coach.” I looked at the time. It was 2:00 where I was, which meant 5:00 where my son was. He was already home from practice. “I’ll see if I can get in touch with him via email.”
“Okay, mom. Thanks, mom.”
“First thing tomorrow, check the lost and found in the office.”
“It’s not gonna be in lost and found, Mom.”
“Not the box by the cafeteria, honey. Check in the office.”
Fast forward two days and I was home from my business trip and I still had not heard back from Coach nor had my son checked with him or the office thus I began the odyssey of hunting down the iPod in earnest. I didn’t delve too deeply into why my son couldn’t bring himself to act. I simply told him if it was my iPhone, I would do anything I had to do to find out what happened to it and whatever it took to get it back. So, that is what I did for him.
I made multiple calls and visits to schools, building and grounds departments, and police stations (not to report it stolen, just thinking that if someone didn’t know whose it was, that might be a place to take it). Ultimately, after a dozen contacts, I learned, indirectly through the away team’s coach, that one of his players had it. But it was at his house. And since it was Friday, he’d bring it in to school Monday.
So there I was on Monday. The receptionist had told me the boy told her he’d found the iPod in the woods. We all knew that wasn’t true given the detective work I had done and the conversation I’d had with the school administrator who had spoken to the coach the Friday before, and the scene my son’s teammate had relayed. But I was still grateful; I knew my son was grateful. And that is why – when I sat him down Friday afternoon after school to explain what it took to track down the iPod (“Okay, mom. Thanks, mom!”)– we had discussed writing an anonymous thank you note, and what note might say: “Thank you for returning the iPod. It means a lot.”
It bothered me then and it bothers me now that because the receptionist had said “no,” she didn’t think it would make a difference, we did not write the note that day, nor have we written one since. Surely it’s not already too late for this middle-school boy to correct his course. So many of us have found ourselves on a path to a place we realized we didn’t want to go and have had to backtrack, look up directions, try a new avenue, figure out where we want to end up and choose our route carefully, a step at a time. Surely, even if we’ve already at the proverbial but fallacious “point of no return,” there is redemption.
Surely it’s not already too late for us to thank this boy for doing the right thing.
Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me....
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now, I see.
~John Newton, “Amazing Grace”