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The Gift of Karma and the Art of Pay It Forward

endlessknot03dI settled back with a good book on a quiet New Year’s Eve back in the early days of my accounting practice. Mrs. Accountant goes to bed early and was already tucked in. We rarely party or go out on New Year’s Eve. To us it is just another day.

My tax office back then was the remodeled basement so I was always close to work. Since the accounting part of my business was many years into the future, there wasn’t much to do around the holidays except enjoy some great reading. A few preparations for the upcoming tax season were as far as they could go.

Cable did not enter our house back then and network television did not interest me. The World Wide Web was just coming into existence and wasn’t a household phrase yet. Internet service was America Online accessed by dial-up. There were fewer distractions to drag a guy away from a good book in those days.

I was reading one of Will Durant’s Story of Civilization books that New Year’s Eve as memory serves. (I consider Will Durant one of the best writers to have ever live. His 11 volume Story of Civilization series is some of the best writing on human history ever.) My cup of tea was on the table next to my recliner where I was reading.

I lived in town for a few years back then to establish my practice. The living room had a bay window looking out toward the street. It was my custom to keep the curtains open so I could see if anything was happening outside.

A blood-curdling scream pulled my eyes from my book. Out the bay window I saw a woman falling from the passenger side of a car! She fell hard. The car sped off.

The woman lay in the middle of the road. She was barely dressed, only wearing a thin shirt, short Capri pants, and nylons. I threw my book on the table and raced out to the woman. I could hear her crying when I got to her side. I looked around for help and worried the driver may return with a weapon. The neighbors either had closed curtains or ignored the plea for help.

The road was covered in ice. It had rained that day and the thin ice had a sharp bumpy surface with cutting points. The woman had no shoes and was in no condition to walk on the sharp ice.

“Ma’am,” I said, “you can’t stay on the road. A car will hit you.”

She just kept crying. She reached up so I picked her up and carried her to the side of the road. She was starting to shiver violently. Only an inch or so of snow/ice accumulation was on the grass between sidewalk and road where I set her down.

The road was silent. No cars. I was worried the driver would return and there would be trouble. I asked the woman about who pushed her out of the car and learned it was her boyfriend.

“You can’t stay out here. You’re cold.” I used it as an excuse. “I can take you to my house and call for help. Okay?”

She nodded. I carried the woman to my home and set her down inside the front door. Instead of standing she dropped to the floor and started sobbing again in the fetal position. She was obviously intoxicated. I told her I needed to call the police. She became agitated and begged me not to call the police and to call her brother instead. I got the phone number of her brother and promised to call him to pick her up.

By now Mrs. Accountant was awake from the noise. I left her with the woman and went to the basement office and called 911 for police and an ambulance. Then I called her brother.

The police and ambulance arrived. The street was flashing blue and red in a kaleidoscope of lights off all the ice. I explained to the police what happened. They gave her a breathalyzer and she blew a .28.  Like I said: snookered.

The boyfriend returned at this time along with the brother of the woman. The boyfriend was afraid his girlfriend was hit on the road when he saw all the lights. Before the night was over the boyfriend was arrested for DWI and assault. The EMTs gave the woman a clean bill of health and the brother took her home.

The excitement was over for this New Year’s Eve. Or so I thought.

Pay it Forward, Karma

Karma is kind to those who Pay it Forward.

No Good Deed . . .

Life has a way of circling back on itself. History, they say, doesn’t repeat, but it rhymes nicely. And so goes this story.

By the time tax season started in February the incident was long forgotten. Then a client came in and started telling me a story about one of their renters who was assaulted by her boyfriend and pushed out of the car window while the car was still moving. A kind man, they said, came to her rescue, helping her to the side of the road and then to his home and called for help.

I swallowed hard as I realized who the man was. I reacted as anyone would have that New Year’s Eve and now the consequences of my actions were sitting right in front of me. The woman from the car, I learned, broke up with the boyfriend and was trying to get her life back in order. There was no lasting physical damage. And I never learned her name.

I asked my client where this incident took place. They said right around here where I live. Then I told them my story. Then they swallowed hard.

Full Circle

Nothing happens in a vacuum. Every action is met by an opposite, yet equal, reaction. I think a guy named Newton said that about the Laws of Motion a few years back. I could be wrong.

I have been doing this long enough to know everything I do eventually comes around full circle. Same applies to you. We are all connected; six degrees of separation and all that. Good intentions can go wrong, but in the end we all get what’s coming to us. There are times I thought my actions were a good idea to later doubt the intelligence of my decision. It doesn’t change my intentions; it just doesn’t always go according to plan.

And then there are the times where you make a larger impact than you ever can imagine at the time. I reacted that New Year’s Eve to an event that had all the markings of a disaster in the making. If I didn’t help that woman, the next car would never have seen her. She would have been killed or worse. If I didn’t call the police the end result could have also been much darker.

None of those thoughts occurred to me at the time. All I wanted to do was keep another human being from harm. Only later did I realize the consequences of my actions. Fortunately, the consequences were all positive.

The clients who rent to this woman are still clients. They are much older now; so am I. (The husband died in 2021.) This all happened 26 years ago. The opinions these clients have of me are molded by the events of that evening long ago.

At It Again

Ideas keep pouring out of my head! I don’t know how to turn it off. It is a curse at times.

I was invited to speak at Camp Mustache SE in January. I agreed and put the event to the side. Then a brain storm struck. Why not offer one-hour consultations at the Camp for $100 (far less than my normal fee) with all proceeds going to a charity of the group’s choice? Ten consults would fit nicely into my schedule so we should raise $1,000 for charity doing what I would normally do anyway, except I would personalize it and have the facilitator of the Camp handle the money, sending it to a charity. In my mind I was getting $1,000 to a charity without a penny out of my pocket. Awesome! I thought.

Most of the slots filled within a few hours. (Who wouldn’t want to talk to me for an hour for a measly hundred bucks?) The remaining slots were filled by the next day.

Then it hit me. My attitude of sharing was sure to have an effect on me at some point in the future. Karma would raise her head and give me exactly what I deserve. I better deliver good advice.

My intentions were to do something valuable for the community we were allowed to have our conference in. A form of Pay it Forward. Time isn’t free, I understand. Still, since I am already at the conference and several attendees might find value in a personal review of their taxes and finances by the likes of yours truly, I thought it was a good idea. It was no extra time for me. Everyone wins! Conference attendees get an opportunity to have their finances reviewed by a guy with over 30 years experience in the accounting and financial services industry, and a charity will be $1,000 closer to their fundraising goals. The community wins as a result.

I offered my services for free with good intentions before it hit me this could end up profiting me. Now, as an accountant, I have no problem with profits. But sometimes I just want to give, no strings attached. But life is not like that. There are always strings! And for every deed a series of causes and effects are sure to follow.

We are all in this together. Let's keep karma on our side.

We are all in this together. Let’s keep karma on our side.

Who is this Karma Chick?

Karma sounds a lot like the Law of Attraction. We usually invoke karma when manure hits the fan. When you screw somebody and it comes back and bites you in the tail and we say it was karma. I disagree. The Law of Attraction and karma are fine words with wonderful meaning, but they lead us to think some magical force out there is watching our every move, waiting to reward us for good behavior and punish us for being a dick.

Then explain why bad things happen to good people. Karma is not watching; you are. Karma is a subconscious attitude you keep tucked away deep inside your brain. No one knows you better than you do. Only you know the reason why you did what you did. And you keep a very accurate record of your values and actions.

Doing the right thing, helping a stray animal or a fellow human being does not automatically bring an instant reward! If my intentions are wholesome my subconscious will know and keep a record. In most cases when good things happen to us it is because we allow it to happen to us because we know deep down we are worthy of such an honor or reward. The same applies when things go from bad to worse. We all too often talk ourselves into the kind of day we think we deserve.

You don’t have to help an old lady across the street to build a reserve of good karma. Instead, open your mind to accepting the gifts life naturally bestows on all of us. When we hold a grudge it only serves to hurt us, not the person you hold the grudge against. The lady, karma, is not at fault when you get kicked; you are doing it to yourself.

Everyone has plenty to complain about. The prick that cut you off in traffic deserves boils all over his body. I understand. The boss that chewed you a new one for no reason deserves a bad attitude from you. Your tax bill, landlord, neighbors and even friends all conspire to irritate you. I get it. Been there. But if you want happiness, if you want peace, if you want karma on your side, then you have to let it go. If you don’t, karma will build in your own mind until the acid burns you.

The same applies to good deeds. Do the right thing because it is the right thing to do. Of course, you will realize the consequences after the fact. It does not matter. So good stuff will come your way and your open mind will say, “Yes, I deserve this. I am a good person.”

There is no need to keep your eyes open for opportunities to make a difference. They will come your way all on their own. Your greatest moments will be unscripted! You will react because you are the person you are. No amount of planning can change the outcome more than your values and ethics.

As for payment, I recommend allowing the warm feeling of doing the right thing as your only compensation. If offered, put up your hand and say to the person you helped, “The next person you meet who needs help, you owe them. And if they offer to pay, you must also request they Pay It Forward.”

There is no other way to live your life with meaning. It isn’t karma. It’s you. It always has been and it always will be. Now, how do you plan on living the rest of your day?