VET­ER­ANS DAY PA­RADE NO GO

The Wichita Eagle - - Front Page - BY DENISE NEIL dneil@wi­chi­taea­gle.com

The Wi­chita School District, cit­ing pro­jected cold tem­per­a­tures and a wind chill, can­cels Satur­day’s pa­rade.

Lo­cal sto­ries of “Face­book Jus­tice” usu­ally have sat­is­fy­ing end­ings. The bad guy is ex­posed on so­cial me­dia, iden­ti­fied, em­bar­rassed and made to pay for his mis­deeds.

But those sto­ries rarely have happy end­ings.

Ear­lier this week, though, what started as a case of an an­gry Wi­chita res­tau­rant owner de­ter­mined to find a teen van­dal who’d de­faced a ta­ble turned into an up­lift­ing story of for­give­ness, em­pa­thy and sec­ond chances.

It started on Satur­day night when the staff at Rev­erie, a cof­fee shop and bak­ery at 2202 E. Dou­glas, was clean­ing up for the night and found an In­sta­gram han­dle etched into a wooden table­top. “In­sta­gram: @Jaylen_Price32,” it said.

Owner An­drew Gough was livid. He tries to keep his shop look­ing tidy and pro­fes­sional, and the table­top would have to be re­placed. He could hardly be­lieve that the van­dal had left be­hind his iden­ti­fy­ing in­for­ma­tion.

He im­me­di­ately got on In­sta­gram and found an ac­count that matched the han­dle. He mes­saged its owner, a teenager named Jaylen Price, whose pro­file pic­ture showed a squint­ing, bearded boy with floppy hair. He heard noth­ing back.

On Sun­day, Gough de­cided to take the same route many other Wi­chita res­tau­rant and busi­ness own­ers in Wi­chita have found suc­cess with in the age of so­cial me­dia — places like Wi­chita’s Pump­house, which over the past cou­ple of years has caught thieves of Chiefs flags, tip jars, bot­tles of al­co­hol and more.

Man­agers sim­ply post a sur­veil­lance photo or video on so­cial me­dia, de­scribe what hap­pened and ask the pub­lic to help them find the thief. It works al­most ev­ery time.

On his per­sonal Face­book page, Gough posted a pic­ture of Jaylen from a screen shot and asked if any­one knew him and could help him get in touch. In the mean­time, he filed a po­lice re­port.

“He left some­thing at Rev­erie and I need to get in touch with him about it,” Gough wrote.

By Mon­day, he’d found Jaylen’s phone num­ber — and Jaylen’s mother’s phone num­ber. He spoke with them both.

The next day, Jaylen Price, a 17-year-old se­nior at North­west High School, came to Rev­erie with his mother. He was ner­vous, but he had $130 in his pocket — money he’d earned as a waiter’s as­sis­tant at a lo­cal res­tau­rant. He gave it to Gough to pay to re­place the table­top, and the two talked.

Jaylen, con­tacted this week, said that he had gone to Rev­erie on Satur­day night with a friend “to kill time.” He or­dered a car­bon­ated min­eral wa­ter, he said, and while he talked to his friend, he ab­sent­mind­edly scratched his In­sta­gram han­dle into the table­top with the bot­tle cap.

Be­fore they left, he tried to wipe it away but re­al­ized he couldn’t.

“I started go­ing a lit­tle into panic mode,” he said. “I just left hop­ing no one would pur­sue it or no­tice.”

When Jaylen got home from work on Mon­day night, he found his un­happy mother wait­ing for him. He ad­mit­ted what he’d done and agreed with his mother that they should go talk with Gough the next day. He also agreed that he should pay for the dam­age him­self.

He was ner­vous at school all day, he said, and his best friends tried to give him ad­vice. Just own up to it, they told him, and be as po­lite as you can.

Gough said he was dis­armed when he shook Jaylen’s hand and re­al­ized that the boy’s palm was sweaty from nerves. Mem­o­ries came rush­ing back of when he was a teenage boy and had done things that were less than in­tel­li­gent.

“I looked at a 17-yearold and saw me mak­ing the same kinds of mis­takes when I was in high school and get­ting busted for it,” Gough said.

The two talked about what hap­pened, Gough said, and they laughed at the bone­headed na­ture of carv­ing one’s con­tact in­for­ma­tion into a ta­ble and then leav­ing.

They agreed to stay in touch.

For his part, Jaylen said he’s learned a les­son about own­ing up to his mis­takes. He’s also learned a les­son about com­pas­sion and for­give­ness, he said.

“I should have owned up to it right then and there. I should have said some­thing,” he said. “But also, it’s hu­man na­ture that we want to avoid prob­lems like that. I’m re­ally glad it worked out the way it did it, though. It could have been a lot worse.”

Gough snapped a selfie of the two to­gether that night and posted it on Face­book. In the photo, both are smil­ing.

Gough wrote:

“Folks, meet my new friend Jaylen. 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.”

COUR­TESY PHOTO

Rev­erie owner An­drew Gough with Jaylen Price, a teen who apol­o­gized and paid for van­dal­iz­ing a ta­ble

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