Dave and his wife Sue decided to go travelling. Their children were adults with homes of their own, and they were each ready for a break from their jobs. They rented out their four-bedroom house, fully-furnished, to Jane and Simon, a young couple with a baby and a toddler, and went away, asking a friend who lived over the road to keep an informal eye on the property.
After a wonderful year of adventures and relaxation, they began preparations for coming home, including giving notice to their tenants.
They were back in the UK a week or so before their home would be free, staying with friends, when Dave got a call from their friend and neighbour…
“I think you should come and have a look at your house. I’ve got a feeling there’s something wrong”.
So they called round.
As soon as they saw the house, they knew something was up. And when they knocked on the front door and looked through the front windows, they saw they were right.
The house was empty!
Everything was gone.
I mean everything.
Their crockery, cutlery, kitchen equipment, teatowels…
Their light fittings…
They let themselves in and walked around in stunned silence. Simon and Jane had gone, taking with them everything that wasn’t nailed down – and some things that were!
The comfortable home they had been ready to move back into was nothing but a shell.
Can you imagine their shock, upset, anger? It must have been awful.
Naturally, they reported the theft but the police said that they didn’t have any records against the names their tenants had given and, as the only address they had for Simon and Jane was their own (now empty) house, it was unlikely they would find them.
But the story doesn’t end there…
A week or so later, to their amazement, they saw Jane letting herself into a house on a street just round the corner from their home! They couldn’t believe their eyes! They’d assumed the family was long gone: not even in the same area anymore, let alone living just a few streets away.
So they followed her up the path and knocked on the door.
And this is where the story gets surreal.
Jane opened the door and looked surprised to see Dave and Sue. Not horrified, just surprised. And she calmly (perhaps a better word would be resignedly) invited them in.
In a state of shock, Sue and Dave stepped over the threshold into a house entirely furnished with their stuff. Simon offered them a cup of tea and they sat on their own three piece suite, drinking tea out of their own mugs, looking at their own carpet (which, by the way, had been cut to fit a different room).
Naturally, they asked Jane and Simon why they’d done it. What did they think they were playing at by taking all this stuff that didn’t belong to them?
“We needed it”.
“But that’s not the point! It’s ours, not yours!”
“You can buy new stuff. You’ve got loads of money. You’ve got that massive house, and you can afford to leave your jobs and go travelling. We’ve got nothing. I’ve just lost my job and we had to move out of your house into this place without any furniture and we didn’t have the money to buy any”.
The argument wasn’t going anywhere so Sue and Dave left and phoned the police to tell them they’d found the culprits.
Simon and Jane were arrested and charged. A date was set for a court appearance. But Dave and Sue didn’t get their stuff back. Possession is nine tenths of the law and they would have to wait for the legal wheels to finish turning before that happened.
Meanwhile, Sue and Dave were living with the inconvenience of not having their stuff, the grief at losing it, and the hurt, frustration and anger of knowing that Simon and Jane were using it all just a few streets away.
What would you have done in this situation?
I’m not sure what I would have done. But I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have had the strength of character to do what Dave and Sue did.
They thought and talked about what they’d noticed when they’d met with Simon and Jane. How miserable they both looked. How worn down and desperate. How poorly dressed they and their children had been. How chilly it had been in the unheated house.
Sue and Dave called round to see Simon and Jane again and said this:
“We’ve decided to give you all this stuff. It’s yours. You can have it”.
Then they phoned the police and withdrew the charges.
The police told them they couldn’t do that but Dave and Sue explained that no crime had been committed as they’d given their stuff to Simon and Jane as a gift.
Dave told me that, as soon as he and Sue had done this, a weight was lifted off their shoulders. Instead of carrying around the burden of anger and blame towards Simon and Jane, and being encumbered by all that stuff, they went back to living with just what they needed day by day, as they had while travelling. They felt freer than they had in years.
This is a true story. I’ve changed the names but ‘Dave’ told me it himself.
What would you have done if this had happened to you? Can you imagine doing what Dave and Sue did? Can you understand why they did it? I’d love to hear your thoughts about it. Please comment below.