Who knew a narrative of redemption and forgiveness could arise from the innocuous epicenter of a purloined — and then returned — napkin dispenser from White Castle?
Of all the breaking Region news grabbing the attention of our readers in recent days — from epic flooding to weapons at schools — the account of a stolen electronic napkin dispenser from the Schererville fast-food restaurant on U.S. 30 ranked among the most-read in a record-shattering month for our online readership.
The initial account of someone stealing the dispenser on Feb. 11, but leaving behind the power cord, effectively rendering it useless to the alleged thief, garnered more than 50,000 pageviews on nwi.com. It came complete with a police-provided surveillance image.
Another 17,000 pageviews came with the follow-up story when, just hours after the story broke, someone returned the napkin dispenser to the fast-food restaurant with an apology note, begging that charges not be pressed.
Thousands of more people clicked on a social media link to read a synopsis of the story in our news roundups online.
These numbers place the overall story firmly in the ranks of our top-read stories at a time in which major breaking news accounts literally were flooding in with record Kankakee River and Little Calumet River levels surrounding and overtaking homes and schoolchildren getting caught with guns or other weapons on school property.
But there's more to this story than its quirkiness and social media buzz. We saw, perhaps, both the power of public information to compel appropriate behavior and the value of forgiveness.
It's very likely the suspect who swiped the dispenser lacked the appetite for the attention, through a glut of social media shares and comments.
Schererville police Cmdr. Jeff Cook said the outcome of the returned dispenser is testament to the effectiveness of community knowledge.
For their part, White Castle management asked police to close the case, apparently accepting the apology of the dispenser-swiping bandit.
In this illustration of the power of public information, style points go to a community that cares, a business that forgives and a would-be thief choosing to do the right thing.