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Karma Cleanser 

Will it come back to bite you?

Dear Karma Cleanser:

What is that saying, "No good deed goes unpunished?" Well, when I saw a person who was in trouble, I tried to help her, but it only caused grief for me.

My good friend M. had been having fits with her daughter, who is 17 and heading down a bad path. The girl was making good grades in high school, but she was hanging out with a bad-influence boyfriend. She started saying she didn't want to go to college when she graduated. My friend could not talk any sense into her. After the daughter threatened to run away with the boyfriend, M. knew something had to be done. She asked for my advice and I said that the daughter could come live with me for a few months, just until she graduated.

I am a single mom who has 10-year-old twins to look after, but I thought that the right thing to do was to help. So M.'s daughter came to live with us at the start of her senior year. It started out good. The daughter took my advice and dumped her boyfriend and she started helping me out by baby-sitting my daughters. Then I started to see why M. was having such a hard time. This girl would disappear after school and not come home until after midnight. I finally saw that I could not help, so I told her she had to move back home.

Several months later, I found out that the girl had stolen my credit card and charged around $200 on it. I was able to get the charges erased, but it is the principle of the thing that bothers me. I was trying to help this girl and she took advantage of me. Please tell me that karma will hunt her down and make her pay for what she did, which was to steal my faith in other people.

-- Thanks for Nothing!

In her poignant meditation book The Buddhist Path to Simplicity, Christina Feldman includes a telling story about the Dalai Lama. Upon meeting an elderly monk who had fled Tibet after spending 20 years in Chinese labor camps, the Dalai Lama asked his old friend if there were ever times when his life was truly in danger. The monk replied, "There were only a few occasions when I faced real danger, and those were the occasions I was in danger of losing my compassion for the Chinese." The only real "punishment" that can come from your good deed would be the loss of your empathy toward friends in need. Look at this way: You got your $200 back, you scored some free baby-sitting for a few months and you got a chance to teach your twins a real lesson about limits. The girl's karma will catch up with her, but your task is to find it in yourself not just to forgive her, but to know you'd extend the same help a dozen times over again.

Been bad? karmacleanser@gmail.com.

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