Yes – or at least, the repaid karma must be inflation-adjusted.
I reached this conclusion recently after finally paying off a long-held hitch-hiking debt. I’d hitched pretty far after graduating from college, and seemed to have little opportunity to repay the debt with rides when I finally bought a car. I still owed 1200 miles at the start of this last vacation. Then, I gave two teenage boys a long ride (that’s double miles), gave a couple of short rides, picked up one ride at night (also double miles for karma points), and then when I found out he was broke, let him share my campground site in Yellowstone. I figure sharing the campsite erased the remaining debt, except for one question – some of the debt is 15 years old – do I owe interest?
My first reaction was no, that repaying kindness transcends the laws of space and time. Then I changed my mind after deciding that the karma debt could be monetized. Instead of waiting years to give rides, I could have given $500 to a Traveler’s Aid society, but giving the same dollar figure now, 15 years later, would be weaseling out of a debt.
My analysis ended there until friends Dan and Bill pointed out that the value of the rides I had recently given had also increased in value. If anything, hitch-hiking may be harder today so I may have more than paid back my debt. How much my riders would have paid probably reflects the inflation-adjusted value of the debt being paid off. As long as you keep that in mind when paying off karma, you’re golden, dude.
Two final thoughts: first, friend Bill says he used to hang around outside convenience stores when he was 14 and give adults money to score him some beer. Does Bill owe a karma debt to score beer to some 14-year olds? He says he wasn’t harmed by it, especially because he was too young to drive. I’ll leave that one for someone else to figure out.
Second, I made one addition to hitch-hiking debt side – I had to hitch-hike back to my car one day after backpacking, in the pouring rain. I guess that means I owe one ride to a sopping wet hitch-hiker. At least I can put it off for a few decades.