I was always a big fan of the show My Name is Earl. I liked the whole karma aspect it had to it. I believe in karma, in the more casual sense of the term: the more good things you do, the more good things will happen to you in life. Sometimes these things are indirect; help someone today, and it may result in some thing great years in the future. In one case I did something generous, and then later that day, something fantastic happened to me…perhaps coincidentally, perhaps not.
My wife and I had recently been told that our 3 year old daughter was born with nerve damage in her ears and that she would need hearing aids. To make matters worse we saw several different audiologists, each one with their own view on how significant the damage was, what type of hearing aids she would need and how long she would need them. After all the confusion seemed to settle we found an audiologist who took our insurance and we were hopefully that he would give us a decent deal on hearing aids.
To get to the new audiologist’s office, we took the B train into the city. At the DeKalb stop a homeless man asking for money came on the train. Being a lifelong New Yorker I have a system for dealing with situations like this. If they have a nicer haircut, clothes or sneakers than I do, then I do not give. If they look like they have been through hell and back or are missing teeth or a hand or are disabled I certainly give something. I usually give a couple of bucks. This particular gentlemen looked like he was in real despair. I looked in my wallet and saw that I only had a ten spot. My first thought was that I cannot afford to give this man 10 dollars!! But then I thought about the message I wanted to send my daughter about helping others and doing the right thing. Then I thought about all the times I spent 10 dollars on complete nonsense (beer, eBay, junk food, that T-shirt with the stupid saying on it). So I pulled the 10 bucks out and gave it to the very surprised and thankful man. My daughter sometimes ahead of her time gave me a high five and said “good job Daddy”.
When we arrived at the audiologist’s office we told him about our past issues and how we just wanted to get the hearing aids and move on. He asked to look at my daughter’s previous test results. He glanced at them, looked at my wife and I and said “these results are a little shaky, do you mind if I retest her, I will not charge you for it.” Of course we said ok and my daughter went into the little booth to get retested. My wife went in there with her as I nervously waited for the results. When the test was over the audiologist, my wife and my daughter all returned to the office. What happened next surprised the heck out of me. The audiologist turned to my wife and I and said the following “your daughter does not need hearing aids at this point, there is some nerve damage but it is mild and with a little speech therapy she will be fine.” My wife was shocked and not sure what to make of it, I was happy as a pig in you know what! The audiologist then said the following which was even more surprising. “I make money off of selling hearing aids, I have been having a hard time keeping up with some of the bigger practices, that being said, this is the first time I have ever recommended not buying hearing aids. After I tested your daughter I could not charge you $5,000 for something that would make little difference. I just knew in my heart if I did, it would give me bad karma.” We once again thanked him, left the office and of course reported everything to our moms.
I do not know the audiologist’s religion or his definition of karma. Did he mean it in a way that is the Hindu definition of dharma (life actions) affecting your karma in the next life? Did he mean it in a Western sense kind of like My Name is Earl? Or did he mean that if he ripped us off something similar would happen to him? I will never know. They say when you give to others the universe responds tenfold. Did giving extra money to that homeless man spur these events? Probably not, but I feel there is a lesson in all of this about doing the right thing and maybe, just maybe one is rewarded for doing the right thing, call it karma or call it what you will.