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Vandalism, social justice and the power of being principled

Today, we explore a story of Facebook justice that took an unexpected turn. This story happened in our hometown of Wichita, Kansas, and yet it presents a universal and timely message on the importance of respect, principled behavior and the power of second chances.

The Youth Entrepreneurs curriculum is based on a set of core principles we call our eight Foundational Values. We believe these principles are essential to any young person’s success beyond the classroom walls. The Foundational Values we teach are consistently carried out in everyday interactions, and each month, we offer a learning-based deep dive into a timely moment or story in the news that relates to one or more of the principles. 

Educators: Leverage this story and follow-up questions for classroom discussion.
Students and alumni: Read the story, then reflect on the questions. 

It began as any other Saturday night. Employees working the closing shift at Reverie Coffee Roasters made their rounds, straightening chairs and wiping tables after a busy day slinging pastries and espresso. That’s when someone spotted it ¬– a permanent scar etched into one of the tabletops. An Instagram handle had been carelessly carved into the solid wood the owner had so carefully chosen for the store’s recent remodel. 

Angry and surprised that a vandal would leave such an obvious calling card, the restaurant owner immediately pulled out his phone and searched for the culprit on Instagram. Uncovering the profile of a smiling, high school-aged male, he sent a message. He didn’t get a response.

So, the restaurant owner took to Facebook, flashing security footage of the vandal’s face in hopes of making contact. Meanwhile, he filed a police report. One day later, he had the 17-year-old on the phone – and his mom. By Tuesday, the student was meeting with the owner of the coffee shop and handing over $130 of his own hard-earned money to pay for the damages.

The owner could have taken the money and dismissed the young man, but he instead offered a handshake and compassion. He listened as the student owned up to his mistake, accepted his apology, and afterward, they even laughed at how his act of vandalism had so obviously revealed his own identity. Later that night, the owner posted on Facebook with the following message:

“Folks, meet my new friend. He made a bad choice, but quickly owned up to it. I’m super glad that we were able to resolve the case of the Instagrammed table peacefully with much dignity and respect.

Perhaps, together, we can make a little lemonade out of those lemons he chose to bring into our shop last weekend. Stay tuned!

I look forward to getting to know this young lad. #caseclosed.”

Questions for Discussion
Put yourself in the shoes of the owner, and then the young man. How would you have responded?  

Win-Win Focus

  • The owner was angry at first, focused on vengeance and catching the person who had wronged him. What changed? 
  • When the owner realized that the young man had learned a lesson, his anger turned to compassion. How does this behavior show a Win-Win Focus?

Find more resources on Win-Win Focus

  • What role did social media play in the outcome? How did it ultimately impact both individuals in a positive way?
  • If the young man hadn’t owned up to his mistake, what lesson would he have missed out on? What did he learn by taking responsibility for his own actions?

Find more resources on Responsibility

Be Principled
  • In what ways did the young man not act in a principled way? What principles did he embody when he finally owned up to his mistake?
  • How did the restaurant owner act in a way that showed respect, integrity and toleration? What might have been different if he hadn’t?
  • What did both individuals learn, and how will they continue to make principled decisions? 

Find more resources on Being Principled