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A life lesson

In to the Wind

October 26, 2011
By Mike Gilchrist , Toledo Chronicle, Tama News-Herald

Many of my friends have heard at least part of this story before. Since I have been waxing reflective in this space lately, I feel it is time to talk once again about karma, and my lack of belief in predestination.

Karma is a Buddhist word for action, meaning "to do." I do not believe in fate, luck, or predestination. To believe that something is predestined to happen, to me, is fatalistic. Fate, and the belief that something happens for some preordained reason is a convenient excuse for all sorts of misguided and evil deeds.

I have used the term karma with my kids a lot throughout their lives. I have tried to teach them they are responsible for their own actions. I have told them that people who do evil things have evil things happen to them, and people who do good things by-in-large have good things happen to them. I also believe you have to protect that karma, do the right thing, and keep the balance between good and evil on the good side of things.

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Don't get me wrong, I am not a Buddhist. However, the basic idea of karma is a universal idea shared by most positive theorists and modern religions. This term might be used interchangeably with a Christian precept--grace. If you do good deeds, then your grace or karma grows in a positive way. If you do evil, then I believe the opposite is true.

My grandmother was a wise woman. She grew up in a very simple rural environment, and while attending church wasn't a routine part of her life, she lived and acted in a very positive way. Grandma used to tell me her guide in life was the golden rule. The golden rule, "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you," follows those very precepts of which I write. Call it karma, call it grace, or call it the golden rule; they mean the same thing.

Many times it is easier to do the wrong thing than the right. There was one real world example that happened over the course of a couple days a few years ago I believe was a valuable lesson to my kids.

We were driving down the road and noticed a billfold lying in the roadway. I stopped, put the Jeep into reverse and drove back to the spot. When I retrieved the billfold and looked inside, there was a wad of cash, some credit cards, and most importantly, a driver's license.

I showed our find to the kids and asked them what they thought we should do. "Spend the money, run up the credit cards, and throw away the billfold," was their first answer. I reminded them it had a driver's license inside, and the address on it showed the person lived close by. One of them offered that we should return it.

That is precisely what we did. We pulled up in the driveway of that home, and knocked on the door. The man who answered was grateful we had returned the billfold. He told us his son was headed to the beach, was wearing a swimsuit with no pockets, and had placed the billfold on top of his car while he opened the door and forgot to grab the billfold.

It felt good to do the right thing. The kids felt good about it. It was a good moral lesson in how to act and respect other people. It would have been easy to keep the $200 and just return the billfold, but we didn't.

The next day I was cleaning out my Jeep and one of the items in the way of the vacuum cleaner was my laptop computer. I set it on the front bumper, leaning up against the grill, and continued my cleaning task. Because I am sometimes absent minded, or because leaning up against the grill the black laptop case just blended in, or for both reasons, I forgot about the computer and left it there.

Later that day we went to the driving range to smack some gold balls. Of course we took the Jeep. Guess what happened?

That evening when I went to look for the laptop, it wasn't anywhere to be found. Remembering the chain of events from the afternoon, we went on a frantic drive retracing our route looking for the laptop or some mangled remnants. We did not find it.

I told the kids not to worry, that someone honest would find it, and it would be returned. None of them believed that.

Later that evening the phone rang. It was a man who lived a couple miles from us. He asked if we had lost a laptop computer. I was relieved! I told him we had, and asked where he found it. He hadn't found it, his uncle had, lying beside the road. Since his uncle, an elderly gentleman didn't know anything about such things; he went the extra mile to give it to his nephew who knew about such things.

He told me it didn't take him long, after he booted the computer to figure out to whom it belonged. My name was in several documents and fortunately also in the phone book. We went after it, and soon the laptop computer was reunited with its knuckleheaded owner.

It wasn't fate, it wasn't luck (I don't believe in luck) and it wasn't predestined to happen. It might have been my good fortune, or perhaps even divine intervention, but the timing was so close to the good deed we had done the day before, I seized the opportunity to link the two and use the example as proof one must protect their karma. I reminded them that good things happen to people who do good things. I asked them what would have happened if we hadn't done the right thing and returned the property we found the day before. I told them I firmly believed the computer would have been lost, and I would have paid the price for having done the wrong thing.

Until next time--

In to the Wind and this column are copyright 2011 Mike Gilchrist. Readers, feel free to contact me at via email, or write to me at P.O. Box 255, Toledo, IA 52342



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