An Unexpected Apology from a Bike Thief

My thanks to the bike thief who left this unusual note.

Posted Nov 12, 2017

Here is a very short apology story involving a stolen bicycle. Although Why Won't You Apologize teaches us how to heal hurts and betrayals in real relationships, this is a story about a one-time apology between strangers. 

My friend Rick had his bike stolen from his garage in downtown Lawrence. This was a big bummer but unlike the story of most bike thefts, it had a happy ending. Rick described the incident to me as follows:

“At around four in the morning I woke up in a funk as I couldn't believe someone had stolen my bike right before I was leaving on vacation. I went outside hoping against all hope that the bike would be back in the garage. It was not. But then I looked in the driveway and there it was —in all of its stolen beauty! It was the answer to my prayers.”

More surprising still was the simple handwritten note taped to the bike. It appeared to be written by someone who had little formal education. It read, “I apologize so much for taking your bike. I was drunk and dumb. And I am sorry that I don’t have the courage to tell you in person.”

I was touched by this sincere expression of responsibility and remorse offered to my friend. While it says, “I was drunk and dumb,” it doesn’t slide into “the bottle made me do it.”

The author of this note wasn’t hoping for a restored relationship since there was none to begin with. Nor was he hanging around to get a smile or pat on the back from the bike’s owner. He gained nothing tangible from his apology--—in fact, there was a certain risk to his returning to the scene of the crime to give back stolen property.

We don’t need to be experts in the apology business to recognize when “I’m sorry” comes from the heart, and from a simple wish to do the right thing. 

I was touched by the note, which reminded me that sometimes the only motive behind an apology is the wish to restore ones integrity, to heal the relationship with one’s own self. And what's more important than that?