It has been hot and humid, prompting heat alerts and smog advisories and I have been loving every minute of it. While others are complaining of the heat I am irritatingly peppy, often exclaiming, “why, it feels just like a breezy oven!” with uncontainable glee. To have a brief respite from wearing my granny cardigan has been bliss.
My joyful perkiness came in handy yesterday when I was waiting at the bank machine to deposit a cheque. The man in front of me was exhibiting a post-work, melting in the humidity stance. As he stumbled away I discovered that he hadn’t removed his cash from the slot. I hadn’t had a close look at at the man other than noting that he looked exhausted. I grabbed the cash and ran towards the intersection.
I accosted the most wilted looking man I could find and asked,“were you just at the bank machine?” Perhaps asking a stranger if he was at a bank machine while extending a wad of twenties would inspire a yes from anyone. He did, however, have one of those forehead slapping expressions on his face so I handed over the cash.
I skipped merrily back to the bank machine, gleefully proud that I saved a man from kicking himself for an entire weekend. I imagined how awful it would have been when he realized in the hot and sweaty subway that he had forgotten his beer money in the bank machine. I tipped an imaginary hat to my dear guardian angel from my recent dog course, thinking again of how her kindness made me want to be nicer to strangers. I thought about the principle of paying it forward – how an act of kindness can prompt someone to do a good turn for the next person, creating a domino effect of goodwill. It is timely that I am reading “An Open Heart, Practicing Compassion in Everyday Life” by the Dalai Lama. He talks about determining whether an act is a moral or spiritual one. If someone doesn’t steal because they are afraid of getting caught or are afraid of public opinion, they aren’t acting in a moral or spiritual manner that will help their karma. If they don’t steal because it causes others to suffer, they are acting in accordance to the Buddha’s doctrine. I am far from being a good Buddhist. I have not mastered having an open loving heart to my enemies. Instead I indulge in lengthy, elaborate revenge fantasies on a regular basis. I am impatient and often dream of pushing my overly chatty clients down the stairs. I possess a healthy dose of non-compassion in my closed, everyday heart. Nevertheless, I felt pleased with my latest act and felt one step closer to better karma.
“I saved his weekend!” I thought smugly to myself, puffing my chest. I imagined the Dalai Lama would smile his beatific smile just for me, if only he knew. I imagine the bank machine man telling his friends about the perspiring angel of mercy who returned his money. I couldn’t wait to tell anyone who would listen. “My karma rocks!” I almost yelled out loud. Then again, how great is your karma if you have to shout it from the rooftops? I’m sure Mother Teresa wasn’t high fiving herself on a regular basis. How much is a good deed cheapened by endlessly crowing about it? My karma probably still has a way to go.