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Do Unto Others

November 21, 2012
Toledo Chronicle, Tama News-Herald

Mike says Happy Thanksgiving, and enjoy this column from a few years ago.

I have an old friend who is a crack shot. He has every model Weatherby rifle ever made. He loads his own rounds, and spends hours developing the proper load for a specific rifle, and a specific intended use.

Don lives in Colorado part of the year, on the west slope, and in Florida during the winter months. His marksman skills are highly sought in western Colorado. The ranchers beg, barter and plead to get Don to set his sights on prairie dog "towns" on their property.

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Prairie dogs can dig extensive tunnels, dens and holes in grazing land. Cattle can step in one of those holes and break a leg. The wasting of a steer can cost a rancher a lot of money; hence the demand for Don's skills.

Don can set up "shop" nearly a mile away from a "dog town," and systematically pick off prairie dogs as they poke their heads up over their berm. He is such a long distance away; the other dogs aren't startled by the blast of the gun, because they don't even hear it. One-by-one the dogs fall prey to Don's marksmanship.

I often tease Don that if there is such a thing as reincarnation, he will come back as a prairie dog, and someone will take crack shots at him. It all has to do with karma.

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 that they are responsible for their 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 in their life. 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.

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. Faithful to my Christian beliefs, the term might be used interchangeably with grace. If you do good deeds, then your grace or karma grows in a positive way. If you do evil deeds, then I believe the opposite is true.

My grandmother was a wise woman. She grew up in a very simple rural environment, and while church going wasn't a routine part of her life, lived and acted in a very positive way. Grandma used to tell me her guide in life was the golden rule, and adherence to the Ten Commandments. Here again 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 all basically mean the same thing.

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

We were driving down the road when I 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 laid 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. I think even the kids felt good about it. It was a good moral lesson in how to act and how to respect other people. It could 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 an absent minded sort of person, 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.

We went out later to the driving range to smack some gold balls. Of course we took the Jeep. As you have probably figured out, the laptop computer wasn't anywhere to be found that evening when I went looking for it. Remembering the chain of events from the afternoon, we went on a frantic drive, retracing or 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. Gushing with relief, I told him we had, and asked where he found it. He hadn't found it, his uncle had. 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. He called, 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 used the example as proof that 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 believe the computer would have been lost, and I would have had to pay the price for having not done the right thing.

So here ends my lecture for the week. I have to go out to my timber and try to jump start those stubborn cicadas, lest my predictions don't pan out, and I die and come back as a big bug.

Until next time-

You can read past columns by visiting and clicking on the "Local Columns" button.

In to the Wind and this column are copyright 2005 - 2012 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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