“Mum, you’ll never guess what happened.” My daughter Tammy’s tone of voice at the other end of the phone indicated that it wasn’t something pleasant.
“Someone took my baby stroller from the bus. When I went to pick it up and get off the bus, it wasn’t there any more. I couldn’t believe it. Who would do such a thing?”
“Oh, I’m sure it wasn’t taken on purpose,” I said. “Someone was probably in a hurry and took the wrong one by mistake. I’m sure you’ll get it back again soon.”
“Mum, I’d really like to think you’re right. But it can’t have happened by mistake. You see, I was the only person on the bus with a stroller. I was only on the bus a short time. I got on only a few stops from my house, and the bus was almost empty and there was no other stroller there,” my daughter said. “And when I came to get off – no stroller. The bus driver and I searched all over the bus in case it had rolled to another corner or something, but it had definitely been taken.”
I didn’t know what to say. I really wanted to think it had been a mistake. I’ve always tried so hard to dan lekaf zechus and judge others favorably, while encouraging my children to do the same. But this incident needed more imagination than most. With five young children, the money for a new stroller would be difficult to find. So Tammy didn’t give up searching for it.
For a few weeks she searched the local newsletter that is distributed around our neighborhood. She scoured the lost and found column just in case it had been taken inadvertently. But nothing.
She eventually bought a second hand stroller to replace the original one, as it was simply too difficult to manage without one and it certainly seemed that the lost one was gone for good.
A week later, Tammy called me. “Mum, you’ll never guess what I saw stuck on the bus stop outside our house today. [It was] a notice which said, ‘A baby stroller was taken off the 52 bus by mistake on November 15. Please call ________ to get it back.’ ”
“Oh, wow. So did you call?”
“Of course. I was dying to know what had happened, and also why it took so long. I mean, if they were going to put up a notice why wait so many weeks?”
It appeared that when the incident occurred, two young women carrying children got off the bus at the stop after my daughter had gotten on. A schoolgirl and an old man also got off. As the bus drove away the schoolgirl noticed that the stroller was still sitting abandoned at the bus stop and the two women were walking down the road with their children.
She ran after them with the stroller, thinking that one of them had forgotten it. But when she caught up with them and asked them about it, they both said it didn’t belong to them. Obviously what must have happened was that the old man had tried to be helpful and had taken it off the bus, thinking it belonged to one of them.
By now the bus had disappeared in the distance, so one of the mothers took the stroller home with her.
The following day she contacted Egged, the local bus company, and explained what had happened. She asked that if anyone called to report a missing stroller, they should be given her telephone number.
But Tammy never reported it missing to Egged, as she was certain that it hadn’t been left on the bus. Egged’s Lost and Found Department deals with items that were forgotten on buses. But the whole point was that the stroller had been taken off the bus, not left on it.
The young mother also contacted the local neighborhood newsletter, asking that it be listed among the lost and found items. What she didn’t know was that there are so many items requested for that list; thus the newsletter’s editor limits the number published every week. (It can take months for a particular item to appear. The stroller had never appeared on the list.)
A few weeks later, upon realizing that the stroller hadn’t appeared in the newsletter and may not surface for weeks, the young mother was determined to find the stroller’s rightful owner. So she followed the bus’s route and posted a notice at every bus stop from where she got off to the route’s end.
And the following day, while waiting for the bus, my daughter saw the notice.
What a tremendous mitzvah of hashevat avedah (returning something to its owner) this busy young mother fulfilled – and to what amazing lengths she went.
I’ve learned a valuable lesson: Even when I think that an action couldn’t have been a mistake and that someone must have done something on purpose, I can certainly be wrong.
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