I believe in karma.
Admittedly, I’m not a Buddhist, so maybe I’m not an expert on the exact definition of karma. But I believe in the basic principle that what comes around goes around. That if you try to put positive things out into the world, positive things will come back to you. Same is true for the negative.
About seven years ago, I had a job that required me to drive all over the greater Seattle area on a daily basis. I’d start my day at my company’s office in Redmond (a relatively posh suburb), then set off from there to whatever client’s office needed me. If I knew that my day’s agenda involved going through downtown Seattle, I knew there was a good chance that I’d pass a homeless person on the side of the road. I always felt guilty about just driving past them. Sometimes I’d give them a couple of quarters or whatever spare change I had in my car’s cup holder, but it never felt like enough. But with that job, I never carried cash on me (too risky), so what else could I do?
One day, when I heard I was going to be heading into Seattle, I stopped at the 7-11 next to my office to buy a Diet Coke before I set off. I decided to also grab a couple of other things – a sandwich and a bottle of water – to take with me. When I saw a frail old man standing at the end of the I-5 off-ramp with his cardboard sign, I rolled down my window and handed them to him.
Later that day, my boss called me into his office and gave me a raise. No lie. I was not expecting any sort of payoff that fast, but that’s how it worked for me. From that point on, I always stopped at 7-11 to get food for the homeless people I would pass, and those days always ended up being my best days. It became something of a habit for me.
In fact, I gave some sort of snack (I think it was just some peanut butter crackers that I happened to have in my laptop bag) to a homeless person on May 24, 2004. Later that evening, I had a first date with a cute British guy that had contacted me through match.com.
Yeah. That was Dave.
Now, is there some cosmic connection there, like would I have not met Dave (or would we not have “clicked” as much as we did) if I hadn’t given crackers to a homeless guy earlier that day? Probably not. Our date had been scheduled for a couple of days, I don’t think it had much to do with the homeless guy. But I like to think that the two things are related. That because I did a good deed, something good (in this case, Dave) came to me.
There are also times when I’ve tried to do something good for someone, and it’s backfired horribly. Either my motives were misinterpreted, or the person took advantage of my generosity and I was left feeling used and horrible. But for every one of those experiences, there are so many more where the rewards were a million times better than whatever my small gesture was.
I refuse to let the negative experiences make me cynical or jaded. I will not sacrifice my desire to help people who are truly in need, just because of a few “bad eggs.” If I honestly know that my motives are pure, then I have to believe that something good will result from it. Even if it takes me a while to see it, I have to believe that the positive is there, somewhere.