Dear Karma Cleanser:
For 13 years, I gave money to a woman who regularly came to my house to beg. Last summer, things escalated and she was at my home three or four times a week. One day, she was waiting on my porch for a handout when my neighbor asked, "So, when are y'all going on vacation?" The woman then said, "So when are you going on vacation?" I didn't say, but for the first time she demanded a restroom. I acquiesced. (She's much larger than me.) The next day, a car that I can connect with her was parked in front of my home, surrounded by four young men. They didn't notice us until my child and I were walking toward our home, at which point they leapt into the car and sped off, as did a car across the street manned by two young women.
That day, I went to the police station and asked for extra patrols while we were gone on vacation. About two months later, the woman appeared at my door. I waved her away, but she just kept knocking. About 30 minutes went by and she returned, and the knocking and ringing began again.
I called the police, asking that they tell her to leave me in peace. Unfortunately, she had two outstanding warrants against her, and they carried her off to jail -- not my intent whatsoever.
After 13 years of kindness, I got physically scared for me and my child. Will I be in karma hell? Did I do wrong? I never meant to get her arrested.
– -- Guilt, Guilt, Guilt!
Your karma is gold, perhaps even platinum, for showing so much charity to this obviously deranged person. Your mistake was a lack of moderation. Some spiritual teachers tell us to "give until it hurts," but in this case your giving ended up hurting both parties. Should the woman show up again, bless her for her perseverance, but let her know that your donations are now going to an agency.
Dear Karma Cleanser:
I've been reading your answers ever since I moved back to the South and started picking up the paper, and I've noticed something. You write about karma and retribution and yet there's never any discussion of reincarnation. Why is that?
I did not believe in reincarnation until I started dating someone who has vivid recollections of a past life. She and I knew each other when I lived here years ago though we only started a romantic relationship when I came back to the city. She also enjoys your column a lot but feels like the reincarnation element is a vital part of karma.
– -- History Repeating
Thanks for reading, and welcome back. We suspect you're fixated on the reincarnation angle because it speaks to your own experience of returning to a place that you once left, and we all want to discover our own autobiographies in everything we read. The Karma Cleanser tends to focus singularly on this life at hand. Really, isn't that enough to manage?
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