I’m a Physical therapist who visits children’s homes for sessions. I noticed that apparently I mistakenly took a small ball from a child’s home. I looked on Amazon and saw that these balls are usually sold in large quantities like one or two hundred. The price of a single ball seems to be between 10 and 15 cents or so, depending on the seller.Months ago I had told the mother that I would return the ball during our next session, but I ended up never continuing with the child. I no longer service this child, and feel uncomfortable calling the parent to tell them I have this insignificant possession of theirs. Is there an eitzah? Can I mail them a few cents in an envelope instead of the ball? Must I do this, or must I send the actual ball back? It’s clear to me they wouldn’t be makpid about getting this ball back, and would be shocked if I even asked them about it.
Essentially, the ball should be returned and not just money, because the mitzva is to return the item itself and not just it’s equivalent. If the parents however say that they are mochel it, then you wouldn’t have to return it. They would have to say it specifically and we can’t just assume it. You can call them up and ask them, what they want you to do with the ball, send it to you, throw it out, etc. They most probably will say, keep it. Then you are fine.
Have a kesiva vchasima tova