Read Stories | Watch Videos

An Unforgettable Credit Card Request

Last week, I served as interface for the first time at Karma Kitchen.  Part of that role required me to gather the money that people contributed.  Up until now, in the numerous times I've volunteered at KK, I had never dealt with KK money.  Today, though, I was seeing how much people left.  Or didn't. Part of the practice of volunteering in this role, of course, is to resist impulsive judgement and focus on cultivating trust in generosity.

Although I couldn't always co-relate who left how much, I could clearly see that at least two tables left absolutely nothing.  It leaves you with a mixed feeling -- Are they taking advantage of this experiment?  Or are they just in a tough spot that day?  Karma Kitchen is a chain of generosity, where people last week paid for this week's expenses and it's up to everyone to see if the chain continues.  Some leave more, some leave less, and the hope is that it all evens out.  But nothing?  Either we didn't do a good job as volunteers or they felt no connection to the people last week who paid their tab nor to the people in the coming week who will be gifted the same experience.  It all felt a bit awkward, to say the least.

This is where my past KK experience came in handy, though, as I realized that for every person who can't/doesn't pay-it-forward, there will be those who go way over the top.  It's a kind of trust.

As serendipity would have it, I experienced an exceptional guest just like that.

One of the servers, Praveen, enthusiastically came upto me and said, "Here's a credit card from a table of four.  Two of them gave cash, third one specified the amount for the credit card, but the fourth one asked us to charge however much we want!"  Wow!  Really?!?  This doesn't happen at a typical restaurant.  Technically, it was my job to swipe the credit card -- but how much should I charge?  I looked at their table; one of them sported a red and white Christmasy hat.  We probably needed the money to balance out some of the others today.  But then I had one of those vintage Karma Kitchen moments.  If Karma Kitchen is here to support people's experience from transaction to trust, we must encourage those who authentically step into that space.

I didn't swipe the card.  At all.  

Not only that, Praveen and I decided to tag her.  From our gift-bag, we found a handcrafted item; we scribbled an inspirational quote; I even made a little origami trinket from scratch paper.  With all those small gifts, her credit card receipt was a Smile Card that silently stated the obvious: "Thank you. You have renewed our faith."

At first, I felt a slight hesitation ... a kind of lack of clarity  or confusion.  And then, as soon as I let go, the liberation of something inside me sent chills up my spine and I just knew I had done the right thing.  She made my day.  What people can experience at Karma Kitchen is totally beautiful.  At the end of the day, when the story was shared with other volunteers, everyone was speechless, shaking their heads in disbelief. :)

Somewhere, I had heard one of the Karma Kitchen founders say that this is an experiment about a shift from consumption to contribution, transaction to trust, isolation to community, and scarcity to abundance.  I don't know about the guests, but I definitely experienced that today.

--Varsha on Dec 6, 2010

Share Your Own Story

If you have a Karma Kitchen story to share, please email us. We'd love to hear it, and spread the inspiration!