Warning: this post isn't strictly about being a veggie. Sorry about that. Well, I suppose that if you are the kind of person who believes in the interconnectedness of every single act in the universe, it might be.
I started 2011 on a bit of a mission: live consciously and kindly (Yes, that's where the vegetarianism comes in). But it goes beyond that - putting others' needs before mine, and being aware of how my actions impact the world around me. Sort of a bass-akwards self-centered approach to life, I guess.
It's easy to be kind somewhere like Vancouver. People smile, make eye contact, and generally engage with others. What happened to me this week has been sort of extraordinary, even still...
After a long day, I stopped by the bank to get some money out of the machine, then headed to the bus stop (I usually walk, but it was raining and I was feeling tired and pathetic). As the bus drew up, I folded my umbrella and prepared to board, only to be met on the step by a young guy in an obvious hurry somewhere. He shot off, and I found a seat. Well, to be precise, I found a wallet on a seat. He had been the only one on the bus apart from the driver, so it had to be his. A cursory inspection revealed this to be the case. When I asked what the protocol was, the driver actually told me it would be more likely that I would find its owner than Translink, whose lost property process is "very slow" (good PR, bus driver man!). Urged on by my fellow passengers, I had a quick dig through the pockets and discovered a bus pass, bank card, cash, gym membership, an ID card from Venezuela, various mementos and a card to a local language school, but no telephone or address details. I resolved to call the school in the morning and try to track him down.
Arriving home, I realised that the $120 I had withdrawn from the bank machine was not in my bag or my coat pockets. Retracing my steps, I couldn't recall removing the money from the machine, as I could my card. In all likelihood, I had left the sodding cash in the sodding cash machine. Palm, meet forehead.
Here's the philosophy bit.
There have been times in my life where I have had no money. Like, $10-to-buy-a-week's-food no money. Thankfully these times have been very few, and more than balanced with times when I haven't had to think about money too much. And, standing at my kitchen counter swearing to no one, I realised that it's my own stupid fault. My attitude to money (for better or worse) has always been a bit easy come, easy go. So, I didn't get any more upset, and although it nagged at me that $120 represented a nice new pair of shoes or jeans, it wasn't a life-changing sum of money for me. But it could have been for someone else - or indeed me, at a different point in my life. The conclusion I drew was that someone might have taken it, ultimately because they needed it more than me, and it was the universe's way of balancing things out. Or, by some tiny miracle, it would come back to me. Don't ATMs suck the money back in if it's not taken after a couple of minutes? Not one to dwell, I fired up Netflix and put my feet up.
On Tuesday morning, I called the language school and reported the found wallet, and was told that the message would be passed on. I kept meaning to pop down to the bank to ask if any cash had been returned, or at least check my statement to see if the money had been magically returned to my account by the ATM. The day got away from me, and just after lunch, my phone rang. It was Jose, the owner of the wallet, calling from the lobby of my office building. I met him and returned the wallet, met with profuse thanks and blessings. He said that I had saved his life, as that was all he had to live on. Then, he left - my part in helping another human being was over.
Several hours later, an ATM statement revealed that the original $120 withdrawal had indeed been subtracted from my balance. Dang it. I made a mental note to avoid book and shoe stores for the next few weeks to counteract the hit on my chequing account, and withdrew another $120.
Home, sleep, new day at work. My phone rang at around 10.30am. It was the bank (CIBC, who have never done anything except ROCK, imo). Apparently, $120 was left in an envelope by 'a middle aged woman', who had found it sticking out of the ATM. She left no contact details. The bank had looked through the ATM's history and narrowed the withdrawal down to my transaction immediately before hers.
The cash is back in my account, and there's a smile on my face. There's also a smile on Jose's face. There's probably a smile on my Good Samaritan's face. Not even a month in to this new way of thinking, result! Everybody wins!
Okay, so my decision to be nice may have had nothing at all to do with that cash coming back to me. But it did profoundly affect Jose's. And that kind lady's decision to be nice made my week. So, here's to being, well, nice...which brings me back to the vegetarian thing.
I read an article this weekend which gave me pause to think about my decision to go veggie. The argument is essentially that by going meat-free, I am opting out of the conversation around the improved treatment of farmed animals. After careful thought, I have to disagree; surely it's a matter of supply and demand on the largest scale? Yes, choosing ethically reared meat is a better option than eating cheap, factory farmed meat - for all involved. I wholly support the decision to eat 'happy meat'. But in reducing total demand, fewer animals are needed as 'supply' (a horrible thought). I used to comfort myself with the thought that the delicious steak on my plate had a good life. These days, I like the idea that it's still running around somewhere. Nice thought, no?