In Elizabeth Gilbert's best-selling memoir "Eat, Pray, Love" she describes the Balinese practice of deliberate acts of generosity as a way to supplement a person's "karmic bank account."
Whatever the person gives away to others will be returned to the person tenfold in ways they could never imagine or predict.
The best time to give something was when you have nothing to give.
I used to think this concept was crazy - how can you give money for example when you are already short on paying your bills?
Or give your time when you're already strapped by your calendar?
But I'm starting to agree with the Balinese.
Let me tell you a couple of stories about why.
Papa Bear and I moved to our 40-acre farm in southwestern Wis in June a year ago. He was still on LOA after our winter in Hawaii, with no "return to work" date in sight yet.
In July I was laid off from my job of 7 years.
Not even two months after signing our new mortgage, we had no income.
The first thing I did after I stopped crying and panicking was find a charity to donate to. Two weeks later, I had a new job; a week after that, PB was called back to work as well.
"OK," you're thinking, "Coincidence."
My new work, although a blessing, and the farm chores, often kept me at home while PB's work often kept him on the road.
Midwest winters tend to be long, cold and dark, a triple whammy with the isolation of working at home.
I probably could have made it through the rest of the winter OK, slowly upping my doses of Vitamin D to counteract the effects of loneliness and SAD, but then the unimaginable happened.
I reached out to one of my few and closest friends in the area in hopes of striking up some after-work-hours social activities to fill up some of my alone time.
To my shock and disbelief, I was curtly rebuffed. My "friend" it turns out was only interested in time spent directly or indirectly benefiting their farm business.
I was welcome to go over and help do their chores, or they could make time to come over if we had cheap hay for sale or to talk about our collaborative farm enterprises, but anything else was beyond the scope of their interest.
In other words,we were just another farm contact on their business Rolodex.
My spirits, already faltering in the late of winter, were now completely crushed.
I allowed myself to wallow in self-pity and anger and grief for a couple of weeks (OK maybe 4 or 5) and then I decided I had to do something about it. I couldn't just go on being disappointed and sad and lonely forever.
But what could I do? I knew nobody in the closest town, a small village with a population of only 471.
My closest friends were over an hour away - not easy to slip into an after-work evening.
And so I thought about the Balinese and the karma of generosity.
And I thought about eggs.
We have a flock of a couple dozen laying hens who pump out a dozen or more eggs a day. PB sells a few and we eat a lot, but there are always extras.
I decided to take a week's worth of extras - 6dz - and give them away, in hopes of sparking something new and positive in my life. I would meet my neighbors in the process.
So I headed out in the direction of a few of my neighbors. Nobody was home on that weekday mid-afternoon.
I stopped by the little white Lutheran church on the ridge - everyone in the building was in a meeting behind closed doors.
My spirits fell even further.
One more neighbor - not home.
"I can't even successfully give something away!" I chided myself.
I thought about heading home full-handed and my heart sank.
In a moment of whim (or divine inspiration?) I decided to stop at the tiny local library and look for a good book to raise my spirits.
As soon as I stepped inside I was warmly greeted by the head librarian. She got me a new library card then told me I also needed to meet the group of knitters gathered in one corner.
After introductions I agreed to come back the following week with my needles and yarn. On my way out the door I asked, "Anybody need some eggs?" I saw a few nods so I ran out to the car and came back with my hands full, gleefully leaving them all stacked on a shelf near the group.
I did go back the next week, and have returned nearly every week thereafter.
The rewards I have reaped in return have been far beyond my imagination.
I now have a new circle of wise and funny women friends, all of whom are deeply tapped into the local community (need a piano tuner or electrician or farm sitter? Just ask the knitters!) and eager to lend a word of advice or recommend someone for a particular job.
My weekly date with the knitters allows me to spend time with my knitting - something I never make time for when home alone. A few of the women are also spinners - and after 6 years of owning fleece animals, I am now learning to spin.
Through connections in my knitting group I have also gathered some new younger friends whose many acts of generosity often leave me speechless.
Upon hearing my husband no longer owns a bow but loves to hunt, they immediately gifted him one of theirs - not only a bow but a left-handed one at that (PB is right handed but left eye dominant so only shoots left-handed).
And then there was the 4th of July, a sweltering holiday when these friends spent their entire day off helping us move over 300 hay bales into the haymow. Then 3 days later showed up again, unasked, to help us finish the job.
"That's what friends are for!" Came their cheerful reply to my choked "I can't believe you're here again!"
All of these friends - young and old - have made room for us not only on their farms but also in their hearts and lives and families.
I am still sad that I lost some good friends this winter.
But my heart rejoices in all that I have gained.
Have you ever given something when you feel empty, only to have something better come back to you tenfold again?
I'd love to hear about it.