I bought a bicycle during my very first week in Gonaives. Since that day, my bike and I have been inseparable. I go everywhere on that bicycle: to work, to the market, to friends' houses, to the river, to church, to the mountains. Everywhere. This trusty blue bike is like my third foot.
Two weeks ago, I woke up and my bike wasn't there. It had disappeared from its perch at the top of the stairs in our apartment building. My heart sank, but I told myself that probably one of my roommates needed to borrow it and didn't think to leave a note. I walked to Jubilee, but upon questioning everyone, no one had seen my bike.
Now there was no denying the sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. Someone had stolen my bike.
I was anxious and angry and very unsettled. It's hard to explain how important that bike is to me, but perhaps I can borrow some words from the wise Captain Jack Sparrow in the movie Pirates of the Caribbean. He describes his ship, the Black Pearl, as being more than a keel, a mast and a sail. "What the Black Pearl is," he explains, "What she really is, is freedom!" That's my bicycle. Freedom.
I told my students to go home. I was too upset to concentrate on teaching. Besides, I had a pretty good hunch about who might have stolen my bike and by gum, I was going to get it back!
There are 3 boys, ages 10-14, who have been around our building a lot lately. All three were students at our school and have been kicked out for behavior problems. Two of them run away from home regularly and several times they spent nights in our outside hallway without our knowledge. Thanks to their situation, it was virtually impossible to find them that morning. I walked through Jubilee, searched the plaza, and finally stationed myself on the porch to watch the street. It was exhausting and I kept thinking how much easier it would be to hunt for my bike if I had a bike to hunt with!
Finally, two of the boys showed up at school. My friends interrogated them and they said they'd seen Godson, the youngest, with a bike. I went to the house and sure enough, there was Godson and there was my bike! There was Godson's mother too, laughing, and chortling, "The white lady's gonna beat Godson. White lady's gonna beat Godson!" Believe me, I wanted to beat him, but instead I simply took the bike and told Godson that I expected him to come apologize and to do some chores for me as payment for the trouble I'd gone through looking for my bicycle. He wouldn't look me in the eye.
Exactly ten days after the event, I heard a soft but insistent knock at the door. It was Godson. He was nervous, looking at the ground, but he spoke, clearly enough for me to hear: "I came to ask you to forgive me." And then he helped me pump water at the well until my 80 gallon barrel was full.
Now Godson looks me in eye when we talk. I still wish he hadn't stolen my bike, but I'm glad things turned out as they did. Maybe someday he'll look back on the day when he chose integrity and remember it as a turning point in his journey. In the meantime, I've got my freedom back and I couldn't be happier!