One day, a very wealthy banking executive by the name of Jeffrey Goodwin was walking down the street in New York City just a few blocks from his office for lunch when a homeless woman grabbed his attention. The young woman, who was around 25 years old, waved him down and said in a polite voice:
“Sir, could you spare some change? I have fallen on difficult times.”
The 55-year-old banker, who was dressed in an expensive Armani suit, stared dismissively at the young woman and said in an arrogant tone:
“I worked hard for my money, why should I help you? “
The banker then proceeded to carry on his way but not before the homeless woman recaptured his attention by calling him out by his childhood name:
“Jeffey, I am very disappointed in you. I did not raise you this way. Don’t you remember when your mother used to bring you to soup kitchens when you were but a teenager to serve meals to those in need just like me?”
Taken aback, Jeffrey Goodwin stopped cold in his tracks and turned to face the woman who was 30 years younger and said:
“How do you know my childhood name? And, who told you that my mother used to bring me to soup kitchens when I was young?”
The homeless woman stared adoringly at the wall street elite standing before her and whispered the words:
“I know these things because I was your mother before I passed away when you were the same age I am now. “
Jeffrey Goodwin suddenly dropped to his knees and began sobbing uncontrollably for the first time since his mother’s death all those years ago. He then stared the young woman right in her eyes and said:
“But how can this be? How is it even possible for you to have died and then to retrun in a new body. I don’t think I understand!”
The young woman, who was in fact his mother from her previous life, hugged the banker and shared what wisdom she had:
“The Universe is a mysterious web of wonder, dear son. About three years ago, I roamed through India for a period of time and met a venerated sage. And he taught me that reincarnation is a fixed and eternal law of the cosmos. Everything is born, then it dies and then it is reborn again. My child, just as the butterfly sheds its cocoon at its moment of transformation from a caterpillar, the soul sheds its body at its moment of transformation from form back into the deathless realm of pure spirit. And, after the soul sheds its body, it then wonders about freely without any hindrance into the mystical planes. But inevitably, the day finally arrives when the soul, pulled by its own karma, chooses to leave the sanctuary of its celestial heavens to take birth once again in a body to continue its journey of truth and enlightenment. “
Astounded at what he had just heard, the wealthy banker then asked the woman in a semi-skeptical tone:
“But how do you know that what your teacher, or whatever you call him, was telling you the truth?”
The young woman smiled and simply said:
“For one a true sage never lies. Most importantly, I experienced the truth of his words directly. One day, while meditating with him and some of his disciples high in the mountains, I had several visions myself from a previous life as your mother. In those visions, I discovered that you, dear one, are my link to the timeless wheel of birth and death!”
For the first time since meeting her, the banker looked upon the homeless woman with great reverence. Within his own heart he now heard the truth of her words speak. Oblivious to the loud background noise of the city, the reunited mother and son rejoiced in a long and joyous moment of silence together. Finally, the banker broke their awe-filled moment and summoned the courage to ask his mother a question that now arose in his mind:
“If I may ask, why did our paths cross here in this improbable setting of New York City? Afterall, you raised me in the country. How is it that we are meeting here?”
In response, the homeless woman laughed and said:
“All I can say is that it was our seeds of karma to appear, here, in this moment of space and time so you could remember that there exists no power stronger in this universe then love. “
Tears streamed down the face of the wealthy banker as he began to feel great shame for all his greedy and selfish behavior. He thought of all the people like his reincarnated mother whom he had brutally judged and ridiculed for their suffering. And he thought of the lies that he had told countless people to convince them to sign away what little savings they had to fatten his own wallet. In that moment of deep reflection, Jeffrey Goodwin experienced great regret for a life wasted in pursuit of ignoble aims. Right then and there, he resolved to use his immense wealth to create a foundation to serve the homeless and all people suffering in poverty. And he just now happened to know the perfect person to appoint as both his personal spiritual advisor and director of a campaign to serve the poor with the spirit of loving kindness.
“Pay It Forward” (A Life Lesson from the Ganja Shop)
****This story occured before COVID-19 so no social distancing rules were violated!
It was the start of a typical evening along the Colorado Front Range. Rush hour traffic was unbearable due to multiple car accidents caused by impatient drivers. Understandably, I felt a bit antsy from this hair-raising commute. So, I did the only sensible thing any 420-inclined person might do in a legal state: I stopped at my favorite ganja shop for some much-needed herbal relief! As I made my way into the shop, I was greeted by my favorite bud tender with a hug and smiles. Who wouldn’t be happy in a weed shop! After a few minutes of friendly banter with my grateful host, I motioned toward the pre-rolled joints in the back of the room and inquired about their cost. My beloved bud-tender smiled and said it was $ 11.50 after tax. I reached into my wallet and pulled out $ 7.50. I was clearly short. You know the look children give when they are denied candy by their parents? Well, that is how my face must have appeared to everyone around me. I didn’t have enough cash to buy my favorite green candy!
Since I was a well-liked regular, my bud-tender succeeded in cutting a dollar off the cost. However, I was still $ 3.00 short to make the purchase. Then, suddenly, at the very moment that I was prepared to walk out the door a young man emerged from the back of the shop and handed me $ 3.00. Stoner Heaven! I turned to the man and introduced myself. We then exchanged hugs and I turned to my bud-tender friend and said: “See, that man is a shining example of how world peace will one day be achieved. It won’t come through the brokered “peace” of nation states but rather through the generous acts of individuals”. For several moments, the two of us talked excitedly about the beautiful concept of “pay it forward.”
Three days later, with the interaction from the dispensary still fresh in my mind, I spotted a homeless man on the side of the road. I introduced myself to him and we started talking as two brother souls. As I came to find out, this person was an inspiring being who had fallen on rough times in the wake of a recent break up. He had dedicated much of his previous adult life to protecting the Earth from corporate predators and he had a deep faith in the Universe. I handed him $ 7.00 and promised that the next time I saw him I would bring him a copy of the Upanishads, a sacred Hindu text that was also dear to his heart. While driving home, I thought of the power of “pay it forward”. I then smiled real wide as I acknowledged the fitting setting of my training in this practice…the ganja shop!