I was the “victim” of a brilliant scam last week. It was a beautiful, fall day and my friend, Eve, and I were walking along the Seine River here in Paris. We were on our way to visit the Musee D’Orsay – an unbelievably gorgeous museum housed in a renovated turn of the 20th century train station. Everyone says not to miss it, and they are right. It’s breathtaking.
We were on sensory overload, taking in the beautiful day, the architecture of all the buildings and the artwork in the pop-up boutiques that line the riverbank. When all of a sudden, I noticed a woman who had been walking towards us bend down to pick something up off the ground. In her hand was a gold wedding band.
“C’est votre?” she asked, holding it out for us to see.
“No, it’s not mine,” I responded. My limited French helped me understand when she pointed out a stamp on the inside. She seemed genuinely concerned that the owner had lost it, since it looked to be real.
“Yours,” she said smiling. “Maybe it’s a sign and will bring you love,” and she handed the ring to me.
Considering the fact that love had been the topic of many conversations here in Paris, and I’m always looking for signs, I was more than willing to believe that. Maybe it was fate! I took the ring and started to wonder how I could find the owner. I would only keep it if all attempts failed. Maybe they have something like Craigslist here in Paris…
But before I could even think that far, the woman was back. This time asking for just a little bit of money to buy her a coffee or something to eat.
Aw man! So this wasn’t my true love speaking to me through signs and symbols? Bummer.
I felt taken.
“She totally played us!” I laughed. But I also thought, she kinda earned a few coins. Which I gave her, along with the now worthless ring.
“Why did you do that?” Eve rightfully asked. In fact, I wasn’t sure why I gave her money either. Looking back, it was probably on account of a few things: she’d established a connection with me, so it was harder to say no, plus I now felt a little stupid and wanted to redeem myself.
Pure genius, actually.
A similar thing had happened my first weekend here. At a cafe in the Latin Quarter, a man selling roses insisted that three of us women each take one. Gratis. He wouldn’t take no for an answer.
The moment we took them, fully intending NOT to pay for them, both my friend and I gave him 5 Euro.
Companies do this all the time, actually. I remember learning about this in my favorite behavioral psychology class. When someone gives you something for free, you feel compelled to give something in return. Unless you’re a sociopath, which is a whole other story really.
Plus, as a spiritual person, I wholeheartedly believe in the principle that the more you give, the more that comes back to you. So even if these “scammers” took the money to buy drugs or alcohol, the fact that I gave it with the spirit to help – helps me. Regardless of what they do with it.
In life, there are always givers and takers. I try really hard to always give more than I take, in any relationship. Money holds great power. And I believe that with it, like so many other things – your time, compassion, or love – the more you give, the more you get.
If you ever find any of these things lacking in your life, take a look around and see if you can give more of it to someone in need.
Truth is, even through all of my ups and downs, I’ve been truly fortunate most of my life. So I try to give whenever I can – to animals and children in need, to my parents, to organizations that help me be a better person – even to friends who I know to be moochers. It all comes back to me in the end.
Today is my birthday. And as easy as it is to think about all that I so dearly wish for this year – love, a family of my own, and a meaningful new job – I can’t help but feel incredibly blessed to have this moment in my life. To be here in Paris, meeting new people, finding my way around to each new experience. Every day feels like a huge accomplishment. And a gift.
I have no idea what awaits me when I return home, but I feel oddly ok with that. I think for the first time I’m embracing the belief that the universe might have it all figured out already. My job is simply to know what I want, ask for it, and share as much as I can with others along the way.