Recently my car was damaged in a parking lot by someone who happened to be walking by holding a piece of sporting equipment that scrapped down the back quarter panel on my driver’s side. I happened to be sitting in my car at the time of the incident and witnessed the contact. While person continued to walk on as if nothing happened (for arguments sake let’s say he truly didn’t realize this happened) I got out to survey the situation and found a nice scratch where the contact had been made. Because the person was still relatively close by I called out to him to please wait and finally he turned around and acknowledged me. As he started walking back towards me I calmly explained that he had hit my car with his sporting equipment and unfortunately put a scratch in it. He apologized, came over to look at my vehicle, and then tried to “rub away the scratch ” which unfortunately was not buffing out – making it glaringly obvious that some damage had occurred. He apologized again and said it was an accident to which I said, “okay but now I have a scratch in my car that needs to be addressed.” To this he replied – “well I don’t know what you want me to do. I told you I was sorry.”

Now I don’t know about you, but I was raised that when something happens, you not only take ownership for your actions but, accident or not, you offer to fix, replace, reimburse, or pay for whatever it is you broke, damaged etc. Somehow in this situation, this man expected his apology to be good enough as he ignored the glaring fact that he damaged my car. In fact, it went so far that he refused to provide me with any contact information and rudely told me that the only way I was getting his name was if I called the police.

So color me confused but when did it become okay to do something to someone else’s property and not then be accountable to fix what was damaged? Or at least offer to fix it? And this isn’t a money issue but more a matter of principle of doing what is right under the circumstances. Simply offering to do the right thing would have been the right thing.

I decided to use this as a teaching moment for my children on a few fronts. First, to teach the obvious – “Be accountable for your actions.” If your actions, whether purposeful or not cause damage or distress to another person you need to take ownership of what you have done and offer to make the situation right. Doing so demonstrates your accountability and is a quality that speaks to your character. Second, don’t be afraid to speak up and stand up for yourself. If you don’t then you are liable to be taken advantage of. This is not to say be rude or confrontational with another but rather assert yourself constructively and with purpose in a way that positively conveys your position. And lastly, don’t let the views of others negate your experience. When I shared this story I was shocked by some of the negativity I received from others who felt I should have just “let it go.” While I shouldn’t have those opinions bother me, it was difficult to hear such harshness all because I stood up for myself in this situation. I don’t ever want my kids to feel that they can’t speak up for themselves for fear of ridicule or negativity. I want them to be prepared that not everyone will share their position but that in no way diminishes that position.