Karma Envelopes

Last week, I got ambushed by hope in a pub in Boulder, Colorado.

My wife and I had just gotten into town for a conference. Our flight out of O’Hare had been delayed for hours by thunderstorms, so by the time we landed, traveled to the hotel, checked in, and set out with friends to look for our first food since breakfast, it was 6pm. We walked through the doors of the Mountain Sun Pub with empty stomachs and frayed nerves. We were seated quickly, given our menus, and were just about to open them when my friend noticed, in small type at the bottom of the menu, these words:

Cash only.

Our empty stomachs dropped, and we got up to go. A waitress stopped us and asked why we were leaving. We explained we were from Chicago and were only carrying credit cards. She smiled wide and told us not to worry.

Then she told us about Karma Envelopes.

“We’ll give you a Karma Envelope,” she explained, “and when you get back to Chicago, write us a check and send it back us.” Speechlessly, we sat back down. We looked at each other in disbelief. I scanned the room for hidden cameras.

All I saw was smiling wait staff and smiling customers.

She came back to take our order and my friend asked how many people actually return their Karma Envelopes. She smiled, said she works in accounting, too, and last month 85% of tabs were reimbursed. She said it was a low month and she expected more payments to trickle in. She took our orders, said the first round of drinks was on the house, and told us the entire team of waiters would be waiting on our table, because that’s how they do things.

She wasn’t exaggerating.

One of our waiters was from Lawrence, KS. We asked him why the place was so generous. He said he didn’t know. He’d only been working there for a month. He said it was the best job he’d ever had, because people are happy there, and he likes being around happy people. He said happiness spreads.

One of our waitresses was from Chicago. We asked her why she liked working there. She said everyone was on the same team. They share tables and tips, and they share the burden and the fun. She pointed back at the kitchen and said the owner was bussing tables, too. You couldn’t pick him out of the crowd.

One of our waiters wore a long handlebar mustache. He was swamped but he knelt down and answered our questions about his facial hair as if he had nothing else to do. At the end of the meal, he brought us our tab, and he gave us our Karma Envelope—self addressed and stamped. Because that’s how they do things.

They believe kindness multiplies.

They believe joy rebounds.

They believe teamwork is contagious.

They believe generosity goes viral.

They believe in the good thing at the center of people and, nine times out of ten, their faith in humanity is rewarded.

The cynic in me secretly wondered if the good vibe was the natural result of legalized marijuana. But the next night we went to a pub just down the street and there were no Karma Envelopes and there was no joy and I can’t even remember the name of the place anymore.

Two nights later, we found an ATM and we delivered our Karma Envelope by hand. Because kindness multiplies. Because joy rebounds. Because you can’t put a price on community or generosity.

Because you can’t put a price on hope.

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In his debut novel, Kelly weaves a page-turning, plot-twisting tale that explores the spiritual depths of identity and relationships, amidst themes of healing, grace, faith, forgiveness, and freedom.

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About Kelly

Dr. Kelly Flanagan is a psychologist, author, consultant, and speaker who enjoys walking with people through the three essentials of a truly satisfying life: worthiness, belonging, and purpose. His blog writings have been featured in Reader’s Digest, The Huffington Post, The 5 Love Languages, and the TODAY Show. Kelly is the author of Loveable and True Companions.