At age 15 I started working at an ice cream store with my best friend. It was the most fun I'd ever had. Occasionally when scooping ice cream out of a bucket, the scoop fell down into the bottom of the freezer and there turned hard as stone. When it was slow, we would dig out a hardened scoop and shoot baskets with it into an old bucket.
Working with your best friend isn't like work at all. Our manager told us we could eat all of the ice cream we wanted, except for the pre-measured containers in the front freezer box and the ice cream bars. There was plenty of good icecream, so we didn't feel too deprived. I ate plenty of chocolate raspberry truffle ice cream every night.
One evening, when my best friend was not working, a fellow employee pulled out an ice cream bar and started eating it. When I told her I didn't think we were supposed to eat them, she said, "Sure we can. Here, try one!" I hesitated as much as a 15 year old would in that situation, and over the next few months ate 3 or 4 more icecream bars, each time feeling a little uncomfortable.
I didn't work there long after my friend moved on to work at a rootbeer stand, and I moved on to work a whole week at a doughnut shop until I watched the owner frying the doughnuts over the vat of boiling oil with a half-ash cigar hanging from his lips. I never could buy doughnuts at that store again.
Years flipped by, and every time I thought back on that job, all of that fun I had was tainted by my dishonesty. I had been given so much, and yet I still stole the one thing I was asked not to eat. I moved away for several years, but when I moved in proximity to this store years later, I visited it to try to find the previous owner and pay him back for those ice cream bars, plus interest. Unfortunately, I only knew his first name.
Once again, I moved away, but anytime I passed near that store, I thought of the need to repay the owner. A few months ago I got serious and contacted the county to locate any existing business records that could help me find the last name of the owner. I am pretty skilled at finding people if I know a name, but that is another blog post.
It took some time to locate the agency that housed the records I needed. As luck would have it, the records they had on file started just after the time period I needed. The clerk mentioned that the company was sold a couple of years after I had worked there. I asked her to give me the name of the second owner, hoping he could tell me the name of the previous owner. I then used my supersonic power-twins ring to find the second owner. He now owned a window washing business, and from the sounds of it, was not faring too well. He, too, did not remember the name of the previous owner.
Cut to five or six months later. I am sitting at work, and the name of the second owner keeps coming to mind. Brain says to me, "Maybe you should pay him the money." Heart wants so badly to find the original owner, but finally agrees. Brain says, "His name was Dennis X." Fingers pull up the phone number and address of the window washing company, and then jot the info down on a piece of paper.
Today on the way home, I parked across from the business address, but the window washing business was not there. I called and asked if his business was still at that address, but he sounded concerned and asked why I wanted to know. Flustered, I hung up. I took a deep breath and called back.
Me: You used to own X icecream store.
Dennis: Yes, how do you know that?
Me: The county records. When I was 15, ...."
I proceeded to tell him the story, and that because I could not locate the original owner, I would like to pay him the money. After telling me how poorly he had fared owning that store, he thanked me for calling. I told him I wanted to bring him the money, but he refused. "Don't worry about it." He said.
I insisted, and then he said the words that burned like fire through my heart, "You are forgiven." I couldn't speak for a moment. I caught my breath, and then with a trembling voice thanked him. For the next hour those words echoed in my mind and each time, I started to cry. I never knew that an ice cream bar could weigh so much. I was forgiven.