Sarah is 16 and the last year has been hard on her and her friends – they are bored all the time and the limitations of Covid-19 have started to feel really exhausting. One night in late winter, Sarah was hanging out with her friends when some acquaintances arrived at her house and invited her and her friend to get into a car. Sarah didn’t recognize the car, but she still got in. While they were driving, her acquaintances confessed that they had stolen the car and were out for a joy ride. The police pulled them over and Sarah was arrested along with the others for stealing the car. A few months later, Sarah and the owner of the car were referred for mediation. Due to Covid-19 precautions, the mediation was held remotely over Zoom.
Adam owned the car that had been stolen. He arrived to the mediation tired and upset, but wanting to share his experience of that evening with Sarah and understand Sarah’s experience.
Adam had been taking his mother-in- law out for dinner in the city. He parked the car on the street outside her home and went inside to help her to the car. When they came back the car was gone. Adam was furious. He depended on the car to get to work. Not to mention, his evening was completely ruined. The event was terribly stressful and he ended up having to contact the police and friends for help. When the car was ultimately returned to Adam, it was in disarray.
When the mediator brought Adam and Sarah together to start the session, she asked them both to tell brief stories about the night when Adam’s car was stolen. Although she was participating, Sarah was hiding her face and speaking almost inaudibly. She was visibly shy and extremely quiet. Sarah’s dad was with her at the start of the mediation, but also had other responsibilities and did not participate in the conversation. The mediator encouraged Sarah to continue to share her experience. Adam set the tone by expressing a desire to talk and understand the impact this event had on both of them. In response, Sarah spoke more clearly and expressed a desire to make amends. The mediator opened up a conversation so they could share with one another how the event had impacted their lives.
Adam was able to tell Sarah about his job, how he needed his car to get to work, and how sad he was to see it returned in bad shape. He was also able to tell Sarah about his family: how he had to frantically try to get into his house with no keys because his infant daughter needed a medication stored in the bathroom there. As Adam was talking, the mediator noted Sarah’s engagement in what Adam was saying. Sarah was nodding, and interjecting with apologies and remorse.
Sarah was able to then share her experience. Sarah felt pressure that night to join in what her friends were doing and not to be the one stopping the fun. She shared her surprise at learning the car had been stolen, the trapped feeling she felt in the backseat after learning this information, and the fear she felt when arrested by the police.
Sarah expressed that she did not have a strong parental presence in her life. Adam was sympathetic to Sarah’s story and gave her some sincere and thoughtful sharing of advice about how to deal with difficult situations like the one she was in. Adam expressed that he did not want this one mistake to affect Sarah’s dreams and goals. Sarah was able to hear what he was saying and she went on to ask Adam’s advice on school and friends.
At the end of the mediation, both Adam and Sarah were given the opportunity to share some last thoughts and words for the other person. Sarah, now fully on camera and speaking more confidently, apologized again. She acknowledged the specific ways in which her actions had harmed Adam and his family. Adam responded to her and clearly said, “I accept your apology. It takes bravery to apologize. Please, don’t let this stop you from your studies and pursuing your dreams. I wish for the best for you.”
The mediation gave them both an opportunity to share their stories and, most importantly, to show up and listen to the other person.