On Kindness and Karma

It was a most unusual sequence of events that left me shaking my head in amazement, after having been terribly rude.

I was on my way home after a long day at work and stopped at the food court in the mall to grab a quick bite for dinner. As I walked from the Salad Works stand with my food tray in hand toward the general seating area, a disheveled beggar approached me mumbling something.

I completely brushed him off with a curt “no thank you” then sat at a table and began eating my dinner.

With each bite I felt increasingly guilty not only at how rudely I had treated the man, but also that I was not burdened by the same financial limitations that precluded him from purchasing a meal such as the one I was now enjoying.

With my salad no more than a couple bites complete and a few dollars in change on my food tray, I walked over to where the man was now seated and asked him if he wanted the rest of my salad. He looked up at me with compassionate, sad eyes and nodded yes.

I put my tray down on his table and walked away.

I didn’t necessarily feel good about what I had done – I still felt rather ashamed at my initial insensitivity. I left the food court and walked on in the mall. After a minute or so, a woman came up to me and said, “Excuse me sir, you left your jacket in the food court.” Then she handed me my jacket that I had forgotten on the back of my chair.

And in my jacket were my car keys and my wallet.

I was quite surprised at the generosity of the woman and thanked her for what she did. And then chills went down my back when she said, “It was nothing. What you did for that homeless man was amazing.”

I think about that moment each time I am in the mall, and each time I’m approached by such struggling people. I’m reminded of how fortunate I am, and how even very small acts of kindness can create extended ripples.

I’m also painfully reminded of how often I forget such noble truths.

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Anthony Gold presenting the commencement address at
Penn State University - School of Graduate Studies.

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