Karma-lized Onions

A couple of years ago, my son was walking down the halls of his school and found a twenty dollar bill on the floor. Most kids (and probably all adults) would have pocketed it and continued walking. Even though I  think I’ve done a good job teaching my kids right from wrong, sometimes even they astonish me. My son took Andrew Jackson and turned him in at the Main Office. He learned later that day that a fellow student had gone to the office frantically searching for her lost lunch money–a twenty dollar bill–and there it was–compliments of my son doing the right thing. That’s got to be worth some good karma points right there. But the thing is, he didn’t do it for a reward or even for the good karma. He did it because it was the right thing to do.

Still…just last week, he thought he had misplaced his school-issued calculator. We learned that a fellow student “borrowed” it without his knowledge and dumped it in a different classroom. One of my son’s classmates found it (we had labeled it with his name) and returned it to its rightful owner. The “borrower” had messed with all the settings and formulas, but my son had his calculator back and wouldn’t have to pay the fine for a lost item. “See?” he said. “Remember that twenty dollars I returned back in Middle School? It’s good karma that I got my calculator back.”

Karma is simple. It’s the concept of action and reaction. Or in other words, you reap what you sow. It’s not so much reward or punishment, but rather just cause and effect. Sometimes, the results of our actions are not readily spotted. It’s like an onion with many layers. We might do something on the top layer, but the results may not show themselves for many more layers, or years.

So one might ask, why do bad things happen to good people? For example, why did the people of Japan have to endure the devastating earthquake and tsunami? Surely they did nothing to deserve nature’s wrath.

I prefer not to think of the earthquake and bad experiences as karmic results, but rather as starting points. An opportunity to rise above and bring goodness into the world in response to tragedy. And that’s just what the Japanese people have been doing…helping each other, sharing, showing kindness. Facebook and news sites are full of stories from Japan that demonstrate the good that shines through in dark times.

  • When I was walking home for 4 hours, there was a lady holding a sign that said “please use our toilet.” They were opening their house for people to go to the restroom. When I saw that, it made me cry feeling the warmth of people.
  • Last night when I was walking home (cause all traffic stopped), an old lady from the bakery shop which was totally passed their closing time, was giving out free bread. Even at times like this, people were trying to find what they can do and it made my heart warm.
  • When I was waiting at the platform, so tired and exhausted, a homeless person came to us and gave a cardboard to sit on. Even though we usually ignored them in our daily life, it was so warm.

Another story tells of a man who donned his scuba gear to swim through the debris to find his family then rescue others. The dog who wouldn’t leave his injured canine companion has become the subject of a viral video. And we will not forgot the 180 brave souls who are risking their lives to try to prevent a meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, and as one worker’s wife encourages, “do your best to save the nation.”

My mother has always said, “Everything happens for a reason.” I believe everything that happens gives us another opportunity to simply do the right thing and send goodness out into the cosmos. And who knows, maybe tomorrow or years from now, that goodness will find its way back to us.




  1. Jo says:

    What a wonderful piece Donna. I happen to be re-reading Kushner’s book “When Bad Things Happen to Good People” because I gave it to my father who was recently diagnosed with terminal cancer. I read the book when I was diagnosed with chondrosarcoma and then again when I had to have a hemi-pelvectomy to save my life. I have given this book to numerous cancer patients and new amputees whom I counsel and somehow, as dated as the book is, it still helps them understand and accept their circumstance a little bit better. I feel that your piece here demonstrates, like Kushner’s thesis, that we must somehow find the positives in our circumstances – whether small annoyances (like someone “lifting” one of our belongings) to something of such tragic magnitude as the people of Japan are now facing. Some more jaded people might not see it, but I do believe that tragic circumstances can lead to greater compassion in the world which can then have a ripple effect of great acts of kindness we might not otherwise witness.

  2. dkillo says:

    Thank you, Jo. My prayers go out to your father and your family.

  3. Barbara says:

    I believe this with all my heart and soul and try and live it every day: “I believe everything that happens gives us another opportunity to simply do the right thing and send goodness out into the cosmos. And who knows, maybe tomorrow or years from now, that goodness will find its way back to us.” Thank you, Donna, for all you do .

  4. Jeff Kreth says:

    I really need to make time to read your blog more consistently. I need an rss feed notifier app for the iPhone.

    I’m always touched by your superb ability to articulate the beauty you see in things, especially other humans. What a wonderful piece. 

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