The Karma Fairy is laughing her head off at the SUV in my driveway.
Those were the good old days of righteousness. These days I will begin a soul-satisfying rant at the master-of-the universe Suburban in front of me at the stop light, and then I remember: One of those things is parked in my driveway. Yeah, it’s mine. Here’s how it happened.
My sister in Texas needed a new car. They are doing very well in their business. Good people, they give a lot of money away; they work with their church resettling refugees from Afghanistan, hauling whole families and their belongings from place to place. My sister always drives a Suburban. They came to visit us here in South Carolina, bought a new Suburban here, where the prices were lower than at home, and gave us their old car.
I can’t re-sell it and I can’t trade it in without seeming to curl my lip at a gift of love. It’s a love car, pure and simple, and when someone gives you a love car you’d best just hush up and drive it around town. Go on and put UU bumper stickers on the back. Just live with the jangle, with the incongruity. It’s good for you. Life is complicated.
I have a sneaking suspicion that the Karma Fairy is laughing her head off. She is the force that helps tickle, nudge, or blast us out of our self-righteousness. If we scorn something thoughtlessly enough, she will make sure we have an opportunity to squirm and learn a little something. She wants us to lose the scorn, open our hearts, understand that there are reasons we may not be thinking of behind the things people do, that if you think you’re clean, you’re dreaming.
I have a friend who, whenever someone cuts him off in traffic, says, “Bless his/her heart, s/he probably just got out of the hospital.” Now I have to look at the SUV drivers and think to myself: “Her sister probably gave her that car, and it’s a love car, so she has to drive it.”
I have read that Unitarian Universalists don’t have a strong sense of sin. I beg to differ. Following is a list of some UU sins. If you admitted these at coffee hour, there would be some throat-clearing, some uncomfortable fidgeting, maybe even a stern talking-to: driving a big old gas-guzzling SUV, tossing glass and plastic bottles in the trash, belonging to the National Rifle Association, watching reality TV, throwing a book away, using a word incorrectly, and feeding the kids sugary snacks, just to name a few.
I think people should drive fuel-efficient cars, build green sanctuaries, eat organic food, keep their engines tuned, and go to the dentist regularly. Here is the problem: all of those things cost money. We have to be careful not to be classist in our distaste for old gas-guzzlers, people who eat bad food or use incorrect grammar, or folks who don’t have all of their teeth. The Karma Fairy will get busy with us, shaking us out of our gleeful middle-class moral uprightness. She just wants us to be better people. So if you see a Suburban with “Uncommon Denomination,” “Peace is Patriotic,” and “Only one six-billionth of this is about you” bumper stickers on it, it’s me or someone in my family. Just wave.
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The Rev. Meg Barnhouse, a UU World online columnist, is senior minister of the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Austin, Texas, and the author of several books, including Broken Buddha. She is also a humorist and singer-songwriter. (Author’s website.)
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