Years ago, we had an Indonesian helper who was like family. She came on holiday with us, regaled us with stories at the dining table and bustled around happily in our home. She had come from a really tough life and was grateful for what we gave her: she earned three times the standard rate of pay and she was happy with that. She shopped for clothes and often looked more polished than I – on several occasions, in restaurants, the waiters gave her the bill instead.
And then a huge amount of money went missing. We had four of our children living at home at that time, with lots of comings and goings, so we called the children together and asked them about the missing money. Never once did we suspect our helper.
Than one day, the burden of guilt became too heavy for her. She broke down and confessed. Her husband, who was a bus driver, didn’t want to drive a bus anymore. He wanted to start a business trading in rice instead. He had pressurised her to provide the capital.
My helper, a simple and uneducated woman, was too terrified of her husband and too terrified of losing him to say no. And so she stole from us. The money was gone.
We wrote off our loss and allowed her to keep her job. Because we loved her.
Recently, money had been going missing from my house (different house, different helper). It wasn’t a large sum each time, but over the months, it came to about £800. The thief was clever: it was small sums that went missing from a large wodge of cash, small enough for you to wonder, “Hmmm, did I spend that?” but it totaled up to quite a significant amount of money over a 2 year period. As we had lots of workmen coming and going, it could well be them.
One day, by chance, i caught my helper with her hand in the till, so to speak. She was lifting the 3,000THB (about £50) left out for the electricity bill on the table in the study. She actually had the cash in her hand.
We both we very shocked and stared at each other for a long, frozen moment. In shock, I told her to leave the house and come back with the money as she had stolen from us.
Mutinous and not apologetic at all, she flounced out of the house. She was haughty and self-righteous as she walked out of my house, her head held high.
She did not come to work the next day.
My friend asked me to send her a text threatening to tell the police.
I chose not to. Yes, a wrong had been committed against my family, but our aim is to right the wrong, not seek revenge. And though £800 is a lot of money to us, it was not crippling. We could weather the loss, albeit uncomfortably.
Instead of going off tangent and demanding our pound of flesh back, eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth, we turned the mirror inwards and looked at ourselves. We are guilty in part too. We are cavalier about money – we leave money lying around. We also use cash a lot rather than credit cards so there is always a lot of cash lying around. To my helper who only pays £30 a month rent, she would often see her annual rent budget lying around carelessly in various parts of our house. The temptation was too great.
To my surprise, when I came home from my morning run a few days later, she was in my house (she has a key) ironing.
“I’m sorry, Madam, I won’t do it again,” she said coolly.
I allowed her to continue working for me.
In no way do I condone stealing. In no way am I a soft touch – there are no further chances after the second one. But there were many times in my life when I was given a second chance by kind souls who believed in giving wrongdoers second chances. I myself have given a second chance to a loved one that cost me so dear, much more than a few hundred pounds, but I will not let that bad experience stop me giving others a second chance. I will always give someone a second chance, however bad the hurt. Who knows, there might come a day when I need one again.