by Bentzion Elisha
Random items appeared to be missing from our apartment. Could it be our sweet hardworking cleaning lady who came highly recommended by neighbors who had her for the last 7 years?
My father-in-law dismissed the idea saying, “everyone blames the cleaning lady first and it never is, it’s too obvious.”
My mother related to us what happened when my father’s passport went missing and panic immediately set in. He had my mother fire their cleaning lady only to find the passport on a shelf a few months later. Oops.
Nevertheless, things were missing, including my grandmothers’ diamond ring which I gave my wife for our wedding.
After discussing the matter with our parents, my wife and I concluded it just couldn’t be her. Rationalizing that the items were just “lost” and were going to be found in the near future eased our minds.
However, last week, Divine Providence taught us a lesson in trusting ‘sweet’ strangers.
My mother got our newly pierced-eared girls gold earrings to avoid infection. Designating them as a gift for Shabbos, my wife put them in a cup on a shelf in the kitchen.
The girls would look at the cup on the shelf excited for Shabbos to come and also when they will wear their grandmothers’ earrings for the 1st time.
But on Erev Shabbos we realized that the earrings were missing.
After asking everyone in the family, we learned that the earrings weren’t moved by anyone of us. Funny, the cleaning lady came the day before and all of the sudden the earrings were missing.
Self doubt set in as we could have unintentionally misplaced them somewhere in the kitchen. After a lengthy search our suspicions were solidified. We then realized that the items weren’t missing, but were rather stolen, and the cleaning lady had to have done it.
What should we do? A confrontation was necessary.
Since the cleaning lady hardly spoke English, a Spanish speaking friend came to the rescue.
My wife’s friend told our cleaning lady that we knew she took things from our home, and that my wife feels very sad about losing the engagement ring and the other items.
My wife was willing to give her one chance to return them or else.
The cleaning lady did not confess immediately, but rather exclaimed that she knew where they were and offered to look for the items. Our Spanish speaking friend suggested we have Miriam Shultz call her as well.
Miriam runs Miriam’s Cleaning Service where she screens the ladies thoroughly, and of course, she speaks Spanish.
I don’t know what Miriam said, but I know that she did scare our cleaning lady.
Instead of coming the next day to clean our apartment and “show my wife where she put things”, the cleaning lady came with her daughter that very evening with a bag full of our jewelry, including the engagement ring!
Her daughter explained that her mother “found” these around the house when she was cleaning and put them in her pocket. She intended to return them, but she forgot.
More shocked by the miraculous return of many of our precious items that had been stolen, we were shocked that she really did do it.
How could this quiet, sweet, hardworking lady to whom we opened our home, betray us? How could we have sometimes left her in the house by herself?
On occasion, how could we have left her with our babies alone, while getting her money from the bank?
Are we going to get back the other items that were “missing”, that have been taken as well, such as some more jewelry, silverware, the iPod, some kids shoes and other items we don’t even know about?
Meanwhile, we informed our previous neighbor, the one who recommended us her ‘trustworthy good’ cleaning lady to us of our most current events. Wowed and scared at the same time, she was dumb struck by the news. She had this cleaning lady for 7 years!
Furthermore she was alarmed at how she routinely left the house with the cleaning lady alone as well as left her children with her.
Every once in a while when things went missing she wouldn’t pay much attention to it, thinking the kids misplaced it. She made a quick list of recent losses: Her daughters China dolls, $100 bill from a guests luggage, a $20 bill from her sons room, an iPod and the list goes on.
Another tough call from Miriam to our ‘sweet, good and trustworthy’ cleaning lady had her calling us again. She offered to give us money for the other items. Sifting through various belongings, seemingly from other people, she could no longer find our other possessions.
We were just the tip of the iceberg.
Cleaning provided her with a paid pass into peoples homes like ours, whose trust was gained after years of ‘good service’. She scouted out the house for valuables to take that paled in comparison to the few dollars an hour she received in monetary value.
We called a Rov not knowing exactly how much to charge. We didn’t want to steal from our thief…
He told us we can charge her whatever we felt covered the amount since she wasn’t telling us exactly what else she took. He also took the opportunity to reprimand us for leaving the cleaning lady in our apartment by herself.
In addition to putting ourselves in danger he said it could be a serious problem of Kashrus.
Regarding theft, a common practice among cleaning ladies, I heard about after telling this story to numerous people, is that the cleaning ladies put items they take in the garbage which they take out. Later either they or someone from their family comes around and takes it from the garbage…
The Rebbe teaches us to share what we learned with others. My family learned a big lesson from our ‘sweet, good and trustworthy’ cleaning lady.
Now we are sharing the lesson we learned with you.
A person easily trusts an individual they see often, like the ‘nice and good’ cleaning lady. A person might say “Our cleaning lady is a good one…”, but ask yourself, are these cleaners’ morals just like yours?
Please protect yourself.