I tend to not believe in karma. A friend once pointed out to me that if karma was real, Jesus wouldn’t have been nailed to a cross to die. I think that what happens happens, regardless of what I’ve done in the past. But sometimes I do notice the irony once in a while.
In my cleaning job nowadays, I sometimes have to pick up cigarette butts around the area outside church. With latex gloves, nothing is too gross. But I can’t help but remember when I was a smoker and I tossed most of my cigarettes on the ground. Is this reaping what I sowed? Is it just irony? Or does God keep tabs on me and counted every Marlboro flicked out the car window, thrown to the sidewalk, or crushed into the ground?
One night this past week I was home from work. It was almost 10:30 pm and the church parking lot lights were off. I saw headlights moving around in the dark, so I got my phone and went to a window to have a look. I had in mind to call the sheriff dispatch if it looked suspicious. The vehicle began to accelerate and swerve. Moments later it left the parking lot and sped away. The security alarms had not gone off. I hoped all was well and slept fitfully.
The next day I found two fast food trays where I had seen the vehicle. Apparently they had been stolen and then used for what I learned was called “tray surfing”. At first I thought that meant putting the trays under the wheels and spinning around. But when I learned that people actually stood on the trays and were pulled by the vehicle I couldn’t believe it at first. The danger and idiocy of that act astounded me. But the trays had holes worn, practically burned, though them right where feet would be. Someone really did that. And when I shared this discovery with people, the inevitable allegation came out: “You would have done the same thing as a kid if you’d thought of it.”
Would I have? I did love to spin donuts with my Mustang. But did I steal things from fast food restaurants? Yes, my friends and I took a WET FLOOR sign once. But did I do property damage? Well a friend and I made a habit of tipping over a port-a-john every time we drove by a particular park. Maybe I never put other’s lives in danger, but no question about it, I was a destructive roughneck back in the day.
Now I clean up after people. I don’t deal with property damage or vandalism very much. (Although someone did illegally dump an old dishwasher in the church’s recycle dumpster Saturday.) Is this work my penance?
No, I don’t think so. I enjoy my job too much for it to seem like reparation. I don’t mind cleaning up after people. I just am incredulous at what I see sometimes. About two weeks ago I saw a kid skateboarding past the NO SKATEBOARDING sign with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth. I asked him how old he was and he snapped that he was 16. I was rude to him. I told him he oughtn’t to be smoking and should be going to the high school group instead. He shrugged me off and skated away. I felt terrible for being rude. I think that I saw myself in him too much and said to him what I would have wanted to tell myself at 16.
“Youth is wasted on the young” the old saying goes. Sometimes it seems to me that wisdom is wasted on the old. I don’t know. Maybe it doesn’t have to be. I know a lot of nice kids (not just my own) who are willing to listen to wisdom. And I wish I could model it more. I wish I had been more polite to that kid with the cigarette. I wonder if he would have listened if I told him that I had been somewhere close to where he was, cocksure king of the world with an unknown future. Or maybe there was no way to reach him. But more than carless disregard for other’s property, kids who don’t seem to care about themselves disturb me greatly.
Maybe a price I pay for the sins of my youth is the wisdom. Instead of a price to pay it’s just a result. Accompanying this wisdom is the desire to pass that wisdom along. Sometimes my blog goes too far that way. I don’t want to presume to tell anyone anything other than what I’m thinking about and how it’s affecting me. And lately I’ve been feeling like people should listen to me because I was foolish in my youth. And now what? I’m not a chowderhead anymore? I’m afraid that this blog reads like it was written like one. Once in a while, the world throws for a loop and it comes out in my writing. The search for truth this week has only concluded that while other people might demonstrate empty headed actions one way, I can demonstrate the same state of mind trying to make sense of it in 878 words.