November 2010
Through the Fence

Karma or Coincidence?

"People get what they deserve" is an old adage some folks dogmatically cling to. If a friend or neighbor has a reversal of fortune, they neither gloat nor feel sympathy for them. They think it was bound to happen eventually because of some misdeed in their past. If a blessing lands in their friend’s lap, their reaction is the same—a sort of smug neutrality. "Must’ve done something right sometime, and they’re only getting their just rewards," they cluck to themselves.

I’m not sure if I totally dismiss this law of paybacks—what the mystics call Karma. I’ve seen many instances in which that type of justice seems to be in play, albeit tardy at times. If it is true, my brother got a long overdue payback for a childish offense he committed several decades ago.

According to our dad, Bobby didn’t speak a word for the first two years of his life. Albert Einstein and my son, Landon didn’t speak either until they were about three. Like them, Bobby preferred thinking, observing and playing over verbal expression. I choose to think this delayed speaking is proof of genius, but I’m not very objective.

One day when my brother was about three, he was outside playing when my father called him in for lunch. After calling several times without result, Dad went out to get him. "Come in this house right now and eat your lunch or I’m going to spank you!" Dad threatened. The little boy looked up at Dad with his piercing blue eyes and spoke for the first time—not a word, but a sentence, "Get a big rock and hit you!" Dad was too stunned and amused to punish the boy for his impudence. And that little incident went into our catalog of family lore.

Many years later, after his kids were grown, my brother graciously volunteered to keep my three young children for a few days. Since I stayed home with them full time, I jumped at the chance to spend a few days without them in the scenic mountains of Big Bend National Park with my husband. It was God’s mercy and my dear sister-in-law who helped my brother survive those days of babysitting.

Our oldest, Lucia, was about seven at the time; Landon was four, and Lena was only two. They fished in the Concho River, fed the horses, hunted arrowheads and camped out in a tent with the dog every night. One afternoon, my brother took them down to his pond and tried to teach them how to skip rocks on the surface of the water. This was to be their final event before we returned for them. After seeing this skill demonstrated and practicing it several dozen times, Lucia finally skipped a few rocks across the pond. Landon loved to chunk rocks anytime and anywhere, and did so at every opportunity. It was a great stress reliever for him. But on that day, he learned to select the right kind of slender rock for skipping and mastered the grip of the rock in his chubby little hands.

He made a couple of stones dance across the water and reached down for another. He was standing behind my brother who was bending down picking up rocks. Right as Landon stood up and let his rock fly, my brother rose up—intercepting the projectile as it hurtled towards the water. The rock hit him square in the temple with a thud. The pain and the surprise caught him off guard, and he wavered unsteadily for a moment. Had the hand throwing it been much older and stronger, the blow might have knocked him out completely. It struck at very close range.

"Uncle Bobby! I sorry! I sorry!" Landon blurted out, having finally learned to talk only a few months previous.

Of course, his Uncle Bobby forgave him instantly. However, he did have a nasty bruise. He wasn’t angry, but seemed more than willing to help me load the kids in the car shortly after I arrived. I was very thankful for the help and sorry he’d gotten hurt. However, if Dad had still been with us, I think he would have felt a little satisfaction at delayed justice.

Lisa Hamblen Hood lives near Priddy, Texas, where she teaches English, Art and Spanish. E-mail her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..