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What Goes Around Comes Around

Updated on February 25, 2010

Why Did I Write This Article?

Last week, I received a call from a shipping company informing me that the furniture I had ordered on-line would be delivered to my new house the next day. While that would make the average person very happy, it didn't please me at all. After all, I hadn't yet closed on the new house and my new furniture was going to be delivered to that location. Being resourceful, I found a solution. I called the company from which I had made the purchase, they agreed that they had made an error by shipping the item prior to the agreed upon date, and they changed the delivery location to my present home. Problem resolved!

Of course, Murphy's Law caught up with me. I got a call the next afternoon informing me that my furniture had been delivered to the garage of my new house and that a construction worker had signed for it. After the brief heart attack, I rushed to the house and found a box in the garage containing my new bombe chest. What a relief! However, the relief was short lived. Murphy had reared his ugly head once again. Given the fact that the house was not yet mine and given the fact that I didn't exactly trust every one of the dozens of construction workers at the site, I realized that I had to remove the chest and bring it home with me. I've got to admire Murphy. He rode me further and added just a few finishing touches to his dirty work by leaving me only two hours to darkness and a box that weighed 200 pounds.

Determined to look adversity in the eye and to defeat Murphy, I paused to think. Out of the corner of my eye I spotted a man who appeared to be giving instructions to his subordinates and a truck with a ramp. Duh? That's a no brainer. Go and beg the man to help you get your furniture home and don't forget the magic word, "money".

When I asked the man to assist me, he hesitated for a moment and then said he would get two of his guys to help us lift the box and he would drive it to my home. However, he paused again and then said he would not accept money because "that's what people are supposed to do for people in trouble". I thought, "wow"! Here's a man who believes and practices "what goes around comes around".

What Does This Cliche Mean?

"You reap what you sow", "you get what you give", "a person's actions (good or bad) will often have consequences for that person", "you get what you deserve", "if you do something bad to another person you'll get hurt too", "what you do or say today will come back to you in the future", are all ways of saying "what goes around comes around".

Many Europeans say "if you dig a pit for someone, you'll fall into it yourself". Those who quote the Bible often say "as you sow, so shall you reap". In Russia they say "as the call, so is the echo". Buddhists will say "If a man speaks or acts with an evil thought, pain follows him, as the wheel follows the foot of the ox that draws the carriage". These too are other ways of saying "what goes around comes around".

However, it should be noted that the expression "what goes around comes around" is very new when compared to most of the aforementioned. The first time this expression was cited in print was in Paul Crump's 1962 novel Burn, Killer, Burn!

My Lesson

At the age of 21, I finally purchased my own car. It cost $125, was eleven years old, and was much like an ailing old man with one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel. I carried tools in my trunk, road flares, a first aid kit and a blanket. I was prepared for just about anything. Because I possessed mechanical ability and had a predisposition to help others, I often found myself stopping to assist stranded motorists. I changed many a tire, boosted numerous batteries, replaced an alternator belt or two, and did whatever else I could to help those in need.

One day, I was driving home and saw a puff of smoke escape through the hood of my car. The engine stopped and the car came to a gentle stop. When I looked under the hood, I realized that a short had caused several wires to burn and to disintegrate. While I had mechanical knowledge, I knew very little about a car's electrical system. Even before having an opportunity to begin praying, a motorist came to my aide. As luck would have it, he turned out to be a cable splicer for the phone company on his way home. Not only did he have the knowledge and the willingness to make the necessary repairs, he had the equipment as well. My immediate thoughts were of all of those people in my life who had, from time to time, warned me that it was too dangerous to stop to help others and now someone was stopping to help me. The least important thing that occurred that day was the repair of my disabled vehicle. The most important, was the life lesson I had learned. What goes around comes around.

The story of my lesson pales in comparison to the ones I have discovered through my research. While I could well have retold them in my own words, to do so would would not have made them any more effective. Please read and reflect on these gems.

The Old Lady's Lesson

One day a man saw an old lady, stranded on the side of the road, but even in the dim light of day, he could see she needed help. So he pulled up in front of her Mercedes and got out. His Pontiac was still sputtering when he approached her.

Even with the smile on his face, she was worried. No one had stopped to help for the last hour or so. Was he going to hurt her? He didn’t look safe; he looked poor and hungry. He could see that she was frightened, standing out there in the cold. He knew how she felt. It was those chills which only fear can put in you. He said, “I’m here to help you, ma’am. Why don’t you wait in the car where it’s warm? By the way, my name is Bryan Anderson.”

Well, all she had was a flat tire, but for an old lady, that was bad enough. Bryan crawled under the car looking for a place to put the jack, skinning his knuckles a time or two. Soon he was able to change the tire. But he had to get dirty and his hands hurt. As he was tightening up the lug nuts, she rolled down the window and began to talk to him. She told him that she was from St. Louis and was only just passing through. She couldn’t thank him enough for coming to her aid.

Bryan just smiled as he closed her trunk. The lady asked how much she owed him. Any amount would have been all right with her. She already imagined all the awful things that could have happened had he not stopped. Bryan never thought twice about being paid. This was not a job to him. This was helping someone in need, and God knows there were plenty, who had given him a hand in the past. He had lived his whole life that way, and it never occurred to him to act any other way. He told her that if she really wanted to pay him back, the next time she saw someone who needed help, she could give that person the assistance they needed, and Bryan added, “And think of me.” He waited until she started her car and drove off. It had been a cold and depressing day, but he felt good as he headed for home, disappearing into the twilight.

A few miles down the road the lady saw a small cafe. She went in to grab a bite to eat, and take the chill off before she made the last leg of her trip home. It was a dingy looking restaurant. Outside were two old gas pumps. The whole scene was unfamiliar to her. The waitress came over and brought a clean towel to wipe her wet hair. She had a sweet smile, one that even being on her feet for the whole day couldn’t erase. The lady noticed the waitress was nearly eight months pregnant, but she never let the strain and aches change her attitude. The old lady wondered how someone who had so little could be so giving to a stranger. Then she remembered Bryan.

After the lady finished her meal, she paid with a hundred dollar bill. The waitress quickly went to get change for her hundred dollar bill, but the old lady had slipped right out the door. She was gone by the time the waitress came back. The waitress wondered where the lady could be. Then she noticed something written on the napkin.

There were tears in her eyes when she read what the lady wrote: “You don’t owe me anything. I have been there too. Somebody once helped me out, the way I’m helping you. If you really want to pay me back, here is what you do: Do not let this chain of love end with you.”
Under the napkin were four more $100 bills.

Well, there were tables to clear, sugar bowls to fill, and people to serve, but the waitress made it through another day. That night when she got home from work and climbed into bed, she was thinking about the money and what the lady had written. How could the lady have known how much she and her husband needed it? With the baby due next month, it was going to be hard….
She knew how worried her husband was, and as he lay sleeping next to her, she gave him a soft kiss and whispered soft and low, “Everything’s going to be all right. I love you, Bryan Anderson.”
There is an old saying “What goes around comes around.”

The Athenian's Lesson

According to ancient history, when Perillos of Athens created a new torture device for the delight of Phalaris, the tyrant of Agrigentum of Sicily, he expected to be rewarded handsomely for his handiwork.

What he had fabricated from bronze was a hollow, life-sized bull, in the belly of which the tyrant's enemies could be placed and roasted alive by a fire lit below. The agonized screams of victims supposedly mimicked the bellowing of a raging bull.

Perillos, indeed, was rewarded for his perverse cleverness when Phalaris chose him to be the first victim of the bronze bull. Fittingly, Phalaris was eventually overthrown and suffered the same fate.

The Farmer's Lesson

His name was Fleming, and he was a poor Scottish farmer. One day, while trying to make a living for his family, he heard a cry for help coming from a nearby bog. He dropped his tools and ran to the bog. There, mired to his waist in black muck, was a terrified boy, screaming and struggling to free himself. Farmer Fleming saved the lad from what could have been a slow and terrifying death.

The next day, a fancy carriage pulled up to the Scotsman's sparse surroundings. An elegantly dressed nobleman stepped out and introduced himself as the father of the boy Farmer Fleming had saved. "I want to repay you," said the nobleman. "You saved my son's life." "No, I can't accept payment for what I did," the Scottish farmer replied, waving off the offer.

At that moment, the farmer's own son came to the door of the family hovel. "Is that your son?" the nobleman asked. "Yes," the farmer replied proudly. "I'll make you a deal. Let me provide him with the level of education my own son will enjoy. If the lad is anything like his father, he'll no doubt grow to be a man we both will be proud of." And that he did.

Farmer Fleming's son attended the very best schools and in time, he graduated from St. Mary's Hospital Medical School in London, and went on to become known throughout the world as the noted Sir Alexander Fleming, the discoverer of Penicillin.

Years afterward, the same nobleman's son who was saved from the bog was stricken with pneumonia. What saved his life this time? Penicillin. The name of the nobleman? Lord Randolph Churchill.

His son's name? Sir Winston Churchill.

Post Script

I hope that you now have a more full understanding of the expression "what goes around comes around". However, more important than just developing a deeper understanding, I hope you've incorporated the concept into your being and that it guides you in your dealings with others.


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