Six months ago I was working at an event in downtown LA and was about ready to go home when I stumbled upon three hundred dollars.
It was late, about 11:00 PM, and I had to cut through the building to get to the parking lot — well, I didn’t HAVE to, but that was the path I chose to take. A few steps before entering the building I looked down and saw three $100 bills bundled together, just sitting on the sidewalk. No one else was around.
I picked up the bills, and looked around for anyone nearby. Realizing no one was there, I then checked the exterior of the building — for cameras. I considered.
And thought some more.
I then wandered inside the building, on my way to the parking structure. Right inside the doorway was the security desk. The woman behind the counter nodded ‘goodnight’ in my direction, and I did the same towards her.
I made it five more steps, then ten. And then I turned around.
As I shuffled back towards security, my mind raced: Why don’t you keep it, Joe? You’re going to New York soon, why not keep this money and use it in the city? Why are you doing this? No one saw anything, just keep it and don’t spend it for a week, wait and see.
But I made it to security. The Guard and I discussed it. She said I could still consider, if I wanted to, keeping the money. She said procedure was that she’d have to call her boss and file it away and that would be the end of it, but was I sure that was what I wanted to do?
Now, at the time I’d just been through a breakup and was juggling work and future jobs and other emotions, so I was already having a rough day. But a part of my mind, small when I first found the money and growing by the second, thought that if I just did the ‘right thing’, it would be paid back to me tenfold. Give a little, get a lot. That’s how Karma works, right?
But does Karma work if you actively seek it? If the intention of your ‘generous act’ is to get something in return, does that somehow negate the act itself?
I thought of these things as the Lieutenant in charge took my information and filed away the money in an envelope. I thought of how much Karma I’d receive in return as he told me that if no one claimed the money in 60 days I could call and have it all. I smiled and walked out the door, thinking that whatever Karma was in front of me was worth it to know that I did the right thing — in case someone legitimately did come back, someone who needed that money — or perhaps it was a co-worker who was short on his or her petty cash, suddenly trying one last effort to recover a lost three hundred dollars.
I drove home, told my story to a few people — all of whom seemed incredulous that I didn’t just keep the money. I felt guilty, ashamed even, then I slept.
And I awoke feeling good, that even if Karma didn’t come visit me to hand me my reward, at least I did the right thing — and even though I wasn’t three hundred dollars richer, it’s also three hundred bucks I didn’t even know existed before, so it wasn’t really my loss either. My mind helped convince me it just wasn’t in the cards to have that three hundred dollars. Not then.
I think this sentiment applied later in summer, with jobs and relationships and certain apartments falling through. If it is meant to be, then Karma will find a way to sneak it to you.
You can’t force good fortune to come to you.
You can’t buy good Karma.