Three Youths and A Vintage Car

When the Mind Descends into the Heart

Every tire was slashed, every door smashed, and the upholstery was badly torn on a vintage car. The damage was $9,000 and the boys were ages 7, 10 and 11, living in navy housing. Their fathers were all deployed. Their mothers, also with other children, were coping with this misbehavior on their own. They cared deeply about their sons.

The victim asked, “Why do I have to drive from Temecula to San Diego for mediation?” He had no insurance except collision. The dedicated mediators agreed to travel to Temecula.

In the beginning of the meeting the victim was still furious. What had he done to bring this on? When he saw how young the boys were, however, he could not believe it. Their fathers were unavailable for the meeting. First the boys pointed to each other as perpetrators but then said, “We did it.” The mediators insisted they look at the victim and say, “I did it.”

The victim told how he felt and what the car had meant to him. When it was unsure if the boys truly understood, the mediators reversed the roles. They asked the boys each to tell a time someone had destroyed something special to them. Then they asked the victim to recall a time when he had done something stupid or harmful to another person.

One mother lamented, “I’ll never be able to trust my son again.” They told what it was like moving place to place with such limited income, one with a family of five. By this time the victim’s attitude had changed. He agreed to $1,000 from each family. Since the boys were unable to earn the amount they would work for a certain number of hours to help repay the family. However, at least half the time equivalency needed to be outside the home, at the stables, for a grandparent, etc. The mediators said, “It was touching to see the families and the man harmed now care.” The owner of the car hugged each of the boys at the end.

Every family, in time, sent in a check for $1,000. The boys had learned a lesson early in life while the victim, with his eyes opened to the realities of “one-parent” military families, could for a short time enter into the lives of these mothers and children. He made a voluntary decision that assisted them in a way no court of law could come close to doing.


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