Paying It Forward

I believe that my life’s gonna see, the love I give, return to me.
– John Mayer, Wheel

I have always been a true believer in karma. The law of moral causation – it goes where sometimes our justice system cannot, it can be harsh and unyielding, or in some cases, it can be a truly beautiful thing, leaving you wondering why you deserved such an act of kindness or such a break from life in the first place. I have been both a victim and a benefactor of karma, and for the most part, karma has left it pretty clear why my shit might be going all downhill or why I have blue skies and smooth sailing.

Derived in India and a fundamental belief in Buddhism, karma explains the inequality among mankind, stating that nothing in this world happens to another individual that he or she does not deserve. Essentially, what goes around comes around. You know what I’m talking about, Britney.

But like I said, karma is not always an evil and vindictive doctrine like most people think. Everyone has certain levels of good and bad karma – the trick is to always ensure that the scale is tipping towards the good rather than the bad. Otherwise…well, just look out.

My story about karma and the beauty of paying it forward starts with my parents. A couple of weeks ago, they decided to take a much needed vacation (for both of their sakes) and jet off to Europe. As I’m sure all of you know, weather wise, this isn’t the most ideal time to visit Europe. But even in the stormiest of times, you can always count on at least one person to bring a ray of sunshine. And for my parents, that ray just happened to come from an elderly man they met along their journey through Ireland.

It was pouring rain when my parents toured a castle in Dublin. And because they aren’t the next Boy Scout and Girl Scout, they clearly weren’t prepared and forgot umbrellas (but thankfully they at least had their jackets). In desperate need of lunch, they were trying to find a restaurant that one of our family friends had recommended to them. Cold, drenched, and alone (my mother’s words, not mine – she might be one for the hysterics here, but who knows?), a man offered to drive my parents to the restaurant they were in search of. Now normally I’d say this is where the plot of a horror flick begins. I mean, has anyone seen Wrong Turn or Wolf Creek? If you have, you know what I’m talking about. And if you haven’t, don’t watch them. I’m serious – both of those movies terrorized me for months on end. I had to sleep with the TV on and everything. And don’t even get me started about how I refused to drive down long, deserted highways at night. No. Thank. You.

Anyway, that would be my typical reaction, but from everything I’ve heard, this kind of gesture is rather typical in Ireland, where the people are much friendlier and much less lunatic than in the States. Either that or maybe my parents seem like the rational hitchhiker type. Do those even exist?

Regardless, my father has always had a knack for making friends everywhere he goes. He’s the alpha male of social butterflies. So chatting it up as he does, my parents came to find out that this man’s grandfather was actually a trolley driver in San Francisco in 1910, and this man has yet to make it over to San Francisco himself. He went on to tell my family about how he wants to journey here one day to discover his heritage and learn more about his grandfather. Small world, right?

Most people might think that this man’s gesture was simply a random act of kindness – not really a big deal. But it shows a few things: 1) the world really is a beautiful place, and we can easily find people that connect to us in the most random of places and in every corner of this planet, and 2) although this might have just been a random act of kindness (I mean, this man had no relation or no obligation to my parents, and I’m sure he didn’t realize how much his gesture turned my parents’ day around), maybe we should all think of how many “random” acts of kindness we pass up on performing every day. That homeless man or woman we pass by every day on our way to work (side note: I actually happen to be fairly good about this – I will typically give money or buy food for many of the homeless individuals I encounter, purely for the fact that I know this is someone’s loved one, and if someone I cared about was unfortunately left on the streets, I would want someone to offer some sort of care and kinship to them, too), or how many of us go to breeders to purchase our pets when numerous animals are sentenced to death every day because no one will take them from a shelter, or even just offering someone a smile, or a shoulder, or a hug to brighten their day. Any little thing can always be construed as a big thing to someone else. And for someone truly struggling, those little acts of kindness typically mean the most to them. And may just be the thing that turns their day or situation around. So pay the kindness, the love, the graciousness, the generosity – pay it forward. We could all use a little more love and happiness in our lives. The world can never have enough of those things. We can never have enough of those things. Kindness begets kindness. And love is love is love. No matter what act, shape, or form.

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