Tuesday, 27 October 2009

What goes around comes around

Do you ever have those moments in life when you feel as if you are experiencing a kind of living parable?

I am a great believer in the maxim ‘what goes around comes around’ – by which I mean a sort of woolly, secular belief in karma, but in this life, not in the next. At the risk of sounding priggish, I like to think that that putting goodwill or good deeds out in the world makes the world a better place generally. My less altruistic motivation for this attitude is that I believe it results in good things coming back to you. Of course most of the time, I forget to think this way or I am feeling far too full of self-pity and irritation to sustain goodwill to others, but I do try.

Yesterday, I experienced a little incident that attested to my ‘pay it forward’ principle. I could call it 'The parable of the pound'.

 I was rushing from the office to a meeting and I stopped off en route to get a coffee. On the way into the coffee shop, I noticed a sign on the door letting customers know that as a result of temporary technical problems, credit card payments couldn’t be accepted. A couple of students were ahead of me in the queue. One of them was trying to pay for his lunch with a card, not having noticed the sign. He had no cash with him. His companion dug around in her purse and lent him some cash, but he was still a £1 short. He patted his pockets helplessly for a moment and then started saying he would have to go and get some cash. On impulse I said to him I’d give him the £1. He looked at me in disbelief and I repeated my offer, adding that he could put £1 in a charity collection box at some point in return. He thanked me, paid and went off with his friend to sit down. This had all taken place infront of the till, observed by the staff.

When I came to pay for my sandwich and coffee, the guy behind the counter said that they wouldn’t charge me for my coffee – because I’d just given the student the £1 he needed. He then passed me my £1 change.

I thanked him and on a whim, chucked the pound coin into the tip jar.

By my reckoning, the student ahead of me in the queue, the coffee shop staff and I all benefited. The only people who lost out were Starbucks, and frankly, I think they can afford it.

What goes around comes around. Sometimes, surprisingly quickly.

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