My husband and I work paycheck to paycheck. Getting something new means getting something from the local thrift store. We have two teenage sons, but last year had to take on our 10-year-old niece permanently. We tightened our belts a little more and were able to clothe and feed her properly, but she was sleeping on a blow-up air mattress and kept her stuff in plastic bins.
Ten months ago, a member of a neighboring church tragically lost their young daughter to cancer and couldn’t stand the sight of their little girl’s things. They donated them. Our preacher was able to pass on the bedroom set and many of the toys to us. It was a beautiful antique iron rod bed with a nearly new mattress and several well-built wooden bookcases and a hope chest that had been lovingly hand painted. My niece cried when we presented her with her new bedroom.
Recently, the original owners contacted us and told us they had made a mistake in their grief and wanted the items back. Not only did the items belong to their little girl but had been either family heirlooms (the bed frame came from a great aunt) or been decorated by them (the hope chest had been painted by the late grandmother).
My husband and I are not heartless, but we have a little girl to look out for ourselves. We discussed it and told the couple we would happily give everything back if they could replace everything with a similar good quality. They told us they were deeply in debt, had no money, and to find God in our hearts.
We offered them the choice of the bed or the painted shelves and hope chest, with the plan that I could take a few more shifts to replace the furniture. We tried, but the couple refused to compromise and ended up cursing us out multiple times. They said we were stealing from their dead daughter. They went public with their grievances, both on social media (which they later deleted) and in our small community.
Our pastor has approached us several times over this, and we have explained our side and showed her the text messages between us and the couple. While we grieve for them, we are not making our little girl sleep on the floor again. We gave the pastor the hope chest and a handwritten letter telling about our little girl’s struggles and how we empathize with the other family’s loss. Do you have any other advice on how to handle this?
— Hurt and Hoping