Attention K-Mart Shoppers: Karma on Sale.
We canceled Christmas in my house this year. It's not because I'm a Grinch. It's because I was exhausted after writing a book, teaching non-stop, working with editors to get it published and Mike taking a job on the East Coast, I was near my annual nervous breakdown which involves watching Lifetime television in bed with a bottle of vodka. Even though we didn't hang the lights or bake any cookies, I still love Christmas. So when I read about people who were paying off strangers’ lay-a-way plans, I jumped on it. I took the boys in search of a lay-a-way plan we could afford, and found one at a nearby K-Mart. "So mom," said my eldest, "I don't get it. We cancel Christmas but we drive all over town to make someone else's?" Exactly.I know many who have padded their children's resumes with charitable acts since the kids were in diapers. There have been birthday parties at animal shelters and party fundraisers. There was even a birthday party where the kids fed the homeless at a shelter (I remarked to that mother that I thought it was very original to use the homeless for your party's entertainment; most people just hire a clown. And for some reason, she stopped talking to me.). Often the parents would then submit a story to our local newspaper about little Johnny's altruism. One family even got our town to name a day after her son. I think someday college admissions officers are going to figure out that seven year olds do not come up with this stuff on their own. So it's been a hard lesson for my kids that when you do something good, you actually do it not to be in the newspaper or to get a day named after you or even to get into Harvard. If you did it for those reasons then you cancel the good Karma you might have created. That brings us to K-Mart where one family had been saving for toys. Another family wanted clothes. And the light came on in my children. They realized these kids probably never had a Christmas like they have had. So we picked out a family, paid for their gifts, and went home with the best present of all: the feeling of having done something wonderful. Am I canceling out any good Karma we may have created by telling you about this? Probably. But this is why: too many of us have become about “whatsinitforme." We do something because it will further our self interests in some way. I hope, if I can make any small change in the world, it would be to do good just because we can. This makes it more of a Kriya, than a Karma, more of a spontaneous natural act of kindness than a calculated action of cause and effect. Then truly we can build a better world, one small thoughtful (or thought-less) gesture at a time. Michelle Berman Marchildon is the Yogi Muse. She’s the author of “Finding More on the Mat,” a yoga memoir available in January from Amazon.com.