I belong to this pretty nifty group called 'freecycle', a sort of match.com for connecting people who have junk/treasure, with other people in need of that exact variety of junk/treasure. Members post about items they'd like to get rid of (sofas, phone chargers, gnome lawn ornaments), but also make requests for items they'd like to have (laptops, tapes for learning French, gnome lawn ornaments). It's a nice sort of game of ring-around-the-roses, people giving and taking; a whole population willing to show up at each others' doorsteps to cart away unwanted stuff.
Anyway, recently someone, we'll call that person "Bugsy," posted a request for a suitcase. Since somehow I've accumulated so many suitcases (we're talking, like 8) that they no longer all fit under my bed and are taking up space in my (smallish studio) living area, I immediately replied with a "I have one! You're welcome to it!"
But instead of the chipper 'Thanks' and 'When can I swing by?' that I was expecting, I instead got a three paragraph sob story as to why exactly Bugsy needed the suitcase. It was the typical sort of tale of 'I've made some stupid mistakes and life-keeps-doing-me-wrong,' where things keep breaking and people are unreliable and you just can't get a leg up.
While I knew Bugsy was looking for sympathy and was justifying the need for a suitcase to me, the tale absolutely rubbed me the wrong way. I never said, "you can have the suitcase, if your really really need it." Just that Bugsy said one was needed was reason enough ... I had an abundance and was more than happy to share.
Yet the groveling stirred up some dark emotions... my cruel-streak, which I have to say is pretty dormant, reared its head. After being smacked by Bugsy's desolate negativity, I didn't want to give Bugsy the suitcase anymore. Bugsy's forlorn and ungrateful miserableness didn't seem worthy of it... mostly in the sense that I realized the gesture wouldn't change anything... this individual would remain dreary and woebegone no matter what happened. After all, the suitcase had already been given away in thought... it was just a matter of it physically getting picked it up. But after hearing the diatribe, the suitcase that I had already earmarked for Bugsy, was suddenly in jeopardy of being so.
I didn't respond to the email for a few days as I waited for its potent taste of gloom to dissipate and for my sense of sympathy and a renewed feeling of generosity to set in. When I did respond, Bugsy's reply was again laced with a new set of problems that had unfolded since our last communication. Ick. (Never fear, in spite of that, of course, I will give the suitcase to Bugsy when/if he/she ever arrives to pick it up).
There's been a lot talk about The Law of Attraction recently thanks to that book The Secret; the idea that positive thinking draws things in, that acting as if you already have something will make it materialize. While I've sort of taken these principles with a skeptical grain of salt (I simply don't think you can dream up money and fancy cars), this particular experience gave me new insight into what its profferers are getting at, especially since they talk a lot about gratitude.
I mean, if the universe is just this great grand place with an abundance of suitcases and everything else... and it says to us, "Sure! You need that? You want that? You can have it! Just come and get it!"
And we reply with, "Yeah? That's nice, 'cause just so you know, everything's crap for me and I never get anything that I want and nothing ever goes right and just breathing this existence is pretty dang miserable..."
I kind of think the universe must think as I did, and sort of say, "Ummm... Right. About those things you wanted? Never mind."