The Punishment of a Good Deed
It is my belief that kindness is always rewarded. Wait, you may say, what about that famous phrase, “no good deed goes unpunished?” I don’t subscribe to such a philosophy; my experience has been the opposite. While the reward may not follow swiftly or even be comparable to the original kind deed, it eventually comes, and often I find it arrives right when I need it most.
I first noticed this phenomenon when I was thirteen years old. My class had earned an ice cream party. When my teacher unloaded the order, my friend realized she had chosen the wrong flavor and the only one left would hurt her stomach. I offered her mine, sorbet, and instead I went without ice cream for the party. Poor me, right? Wrong! A few weeks later, the teacher bought me a double scoop from the same store which I was even allowed to eat during a test, making other students mutter, “I should have given up my ice cream.”
The rewards are certainly not always tit for tat. I’ve seen them come in the form of money, food, a kind word and yes, favors. I remember once going the extra mile for a sick child who I taught at a preschool. Years later the effort I made came back to me in the form of a helpful nurse when I gave birth to my first child. In another instance, I gave a ride to someone, which took me forty minutes out of my way. Also, years later, the favor was repaid when a remote acquaintance helped me when I was lost by personally getting in my car and riding with me until I found where I was going, even though it was out of their way.
It’s easy to brush all of what I’m saying aside and call it coincidence, but I have seen this principle in action in the lives of others. An example that fills me with pride was the time my daughter gave her prize to a child who was crying. A week later, her grandmother sent her a toy she had been dreaming of for months, and no, I did not tip off grandma! I once saw a stranger at the pool help another stranger find her daughter, then a few minutes later the other woman saved her baby from going under the water. The list goes on, but my favorite example is the one that happened to my father.
My father runs what is called a daily minyan, in which it’s his job to gather ten people together in prayer every day. Many years ago, just before the 1996 summer Olympics in Atlanta, the torch run was scheduled to pass by his part of town at that exact time as the prayer services. Not surprisingly, my father had a tough time gathering 10 people who were willing to miss out on seeing the torch run through the neighborhood. As an avid lover of all things Olympics, my father also wanted to see the torch pass by, but there was a man who needed to say the mourner's Kaddish, so my father persisted until a minyan was formed.
Eleven years later, my father needed to say mourner's Kaddish and there was trouble gathering the last man for the service. Just before they were about to give up, a man walked in and the quorum was made. After services were over, this man walked up to my father and introduced himself as the same man my father worked so hard to get a minyan for that very day back in 1996! The man said he had been looking to repay my father for his kindness and now he was grateful to have the opportunity.
Sometimes the reward for kindness is delayed, sometimes it is transferred or transformed. But it in my experience, it is never, ever punished. It is always rewarded, somehow, someway.