I was walking laps around the rec yard the other day when my friend, Kevin, looked down and noticed his New Balance walking shoes had a small hole in them. Gravel rocks from the track had entered his shoes — that’s how he initially noticed the hole.
Later that day, Kevin called his elderly mother and told her about his shoepocalypse. A week later, she sent him $110.
Kevin began looking at the commissary prices for shoes. The New Balance were $65. With tax, that becomes $68.90. Too expensive, really. Especially since there was a Rawlings brand for just $43. He decided to get those — that way he’d still have $67 left over for other stuff.
But like many of us, Kevin is an over-thinker. He thought, and thought, and thought some more, then decided, “You know what, maybe these shoes I’ve got aren’t so bad after all. Maybe I can make them last, at least until summer, and by then I’ll have enough saved up that I can buy a new pair.”
I told him, “No, you have to buy the shoes now.” Anyone familiar with bad karma will immediately dread the awful consequences which might befall poor Kevin if he opts against purchasing the shoes. And worse, what if, on his next call to his mother’s nursing home, she asks, “How are your new shoes?” Then what does he do? Does he say, “oh, they’re great, thanks,” or does he say, “oh, I decided not to buy them quite yet, I’m waiting until my other ones are in worse shape, but thank you for the money”? If he lies, that makes the potential bad karma exponentially worse. And if he tells the truth, his mom will feel manipulated and used. There simply is no way to win, other than to buy the shoes.
Kevin isn’t rich. He realizes that if he buys the shoes, he probably won’t be able to afford mayo and lemon pepper, both condiments that would have gone really nicely on our fish sandwich tonight. He might not be able to make as many phone calls home. He might have to buy the generic instant coffee, not the Folgers. His quality of life would be slightly reduced. But so would his blisters.
I was reminded of a situation, years ago, when another friend (who shall remain nameless) really wanted some extra money for the holidays. Normally, his family wouldn’t send him money, but he knew if he concocted a sob story about how his TV broke (it didn’t) that they would feel sorry for him and send him $250. He told the lie. They sent the money. He didn’t buy a new TV.
Instead, he bought lots of junk food, and beads to make necklaces. Guess what? Three months later, after his money was spent, his TV actually DID break. And over the course of the next couple of years, bad things started happening to him. His parents both died. His health deteriorated. His MP3 player stopped working. It was one thing after another. Can I say for sure that these things were caused by his lie? No, I can’t. In fact, it’s likely that his lie, and that bad karma, had nothing to do with the series of unfortunate events which followed. BUT….what if there was even a teeny tiny chance that it did? Is it worth the risk? Is it worth a lifetime of guilt? In my estimation, the answer is: absolutely not.
It should be noted that both of these individuals are very religious. They read the Bible on a daily basis and they attend church services regularly. While I consider myself spiritual, I’ve never been religious. I was never raised on sunday school or at church. I went a few times with my parents, but the only times I touched a Bible in my childhood was when I opened the drawer of the bedstand at the hundreds of hotels I stayed at during family vacations. “Placed by the Gideons,” it always said on the Bible. And if we were lucky enough to be able to afford the J.W. Marriott on any given year, I could also take a glance at The Book of Mormon.
My point is, while I spent my Sundays watching football, not watching the church choir, I still know right from wrong, and I still try to do the right thing. I don’t necessarily believe in bad karma, but I’m smart enough to be able to admit that I don’t know for sure. It might be a thing. And if it is…I don’t want to mess with it. Also, I simply couldn’t live with myself telling someone I’m going to use money for one thing but actually using it for something else. I may be a criminal now. I may be a felon. An offender. Or whatever you want to call me. But I’m a criminal with a conscience — those are hard to come by in this day and age.
I did what I could. The rest is up to Kevin. Ultimately, it’s his decision. It’s his mom, his feet, his guilt that he has to live with. The guy is already here for 35 years to life, so perhaps lying to his mom about new shoes is relatively low on his list of transgressions. All I’m saying is if someone sent me money for shoes, and I instead bought lemon pepper and mayo, the guilt would eat me alive.
Categories: Stephen Newman