Forgiven Debts


It was about a week before Christmas.

My three daughters and I headed out one night to the University Place Hallmark store. While in the parking lot, I asked the girls to please wait in the car long enough for me to get my checkbook and wallet in order.

The wind suddenly picked up and rocked the van. Snowflakes started falling. It was magical to see snow glistening under the street lights in the parking lot. Now it felt like Christmas!

Hannah, the front seat passenger, slowly squeezed the door handle. Instantly, a blast of cold air shot into the van, flinging the passenger door wide open and smacking it into a black Volvo parked next to us.
Hannah screamed in horror and jumped in the back seat.

I got out and looked at the Volvo's damaged door. It was no ding -- it was more like a foot long gash. I came back inside the van and assessed the damages with the girls. Hannah was still crying. I assured her it was an accident but that we were still responsible for the damage. We waited awhile in the car, looking at each shopper return to their car. Nobody went to the black Volvo next to us.

After about 20 minutes, we went inside Hallmark asking if anyone drove a black Volvo with Georgia license plates. Nobody claimed a black Volvo. I saw a police officer walking his beat on the sidewalk near the store. I explained to him what had happened. He laughed and said, "Most people would drive off. If you want, you could leave a note."

After digging through my pocketbook, I found a piece of paper and wrote. "The wind blew my van door into your right back passenger door and damaged it. We waited for the owner of the car to return for quite some time. I am sorry to have damaged your car. Susan." I also left my phone number.
With that, I lifted the windshield wiper on the Volvo and placed my confession underneath it.

"There goes Christmas," I thought as we drove home. My husband told the girls we did the right thing to leave a note. With a sick feeling in our stomachs we wondered how much the repairs would be on the Volvo. My husband guestimated several hundreds of dollars.

Each time the phone rang, my heart raced wondering if it was a response to the Volvo. A day passed and no response. I wondered if perhaps the wind blew my note off the windshield. Did the person ever get my confession?
One afternoon, there was a message on my answering machine. "Hi, Susan. This is Tom Rodgowski. You left a message on my windshield. I really appreciate your honesty about my car. I will get a few estimates and get back with you. And, thanks, again, for your honesty."

Another day went by. Another message was left on my answering machine. This time it said, Hi, Susan. This is Tom Rodgowski. I got two estimates to repair the door on the Volvo. One was $700 and the other was, I think, rather high, $1,200. I will try calling you again and let you know what I have decided."

My husband was home the next time Tom called. They agreed on the $700 amount to repair the damaged Volvo door. My husband agreed to meet Tom with a check at Caribou Coffee on Mallard Creek Church Road the next day.

Wearing his Willie Claus Santa Hat (a mix between Santa Claus and Willie Nelson with white braids), my husband set out with all three daughters to meet Mr. Rodgowski and deliver the check. My husband said Tom was a nice man, wished him a Merry Christmas and apologized for the inconvenience we might have caused by damaging his car.

Several days later another message was on my answering machine.

"Hello. This is Tom Rodgowski. I cashed in a few favors due me and got my car fixed at no charge. I am returning your check in the mail. Happy holidays."

We were so shocked to get a message like that! Was it real?
Well, the next day we got the check back in the mail from Tom. I thought about Christmas and how a gift was given to us and how a debt was forgiven.

Susan Lemckert selemckert@aol.com

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