I got a call at 7am last Tuesday from one of my business partners. At the time, I was luxuriating on the couch at a Starbucks in Ormond Beach, Fla., surfing on the Death Star, and enjoying the Frank Sinatra track that was playing. I was singing in the rain when the unexpected call came in.
"Did you get the email last night?" he asked. I hadn't and I told him so. He and another of my partners were being called into the corporate office. Apparently a reorganization is underway. Later in the day we learned that one of our inside guys was let go. I hate to sound dramatic, but for some in our organization, a panic had erupted.
It's pretty hard to focus, to go about your everyday tasks and responsibilities, when such a cloud is looming. I sure wish I could remember which recently read book gave this advice, a reminder here that nothing I write is original, but the best thing to do in such a situation is to consider the worst case scenario. That would be losing my job. I expect some of you have already experienced that reality at some point in your career.
OK, then what. Well, I could choose to spend my savings to maintain my standard of living, or I could radically downsize. I liked the latter option. Though it's not a good time to be job hunting, I have enough skills that I could find something to generate income. I won't bore you with all the potentialities in my life that would have to be considered if I lost my job. But I will tell you that after I mentally walked through them, I realized that life would be just fine.
Of course, I wouldn't have as much stuff. It takes money, and a lot of it, to maintain the American lifestyle; but I wouldn't have lost anything that really matters. Did that ring a bell? If it didn't, you didn't read Alex Green's piece The Only Thing That Really Matters. In it, you'd learn about a long term study of a bunch of Harvard grads who discovered, after nearly a lifetime of experiences, that "the only thing that really matters in life are your relationships to other people".
The 7am phone call from my partner forced me to consider what could happen in the world's economy if I lost my job and my income. It also reminded me that there's another economy in our lives - and it's the one that really counts: God's economy. The currency for His economy isn't counted in dollars - it's counted in people. The richest people in the world are the one's who enjoy the most relationships.
When you think about it, relationships are a lot like money. You have to invest in them to make them grow. What do we invest in our relationships? We invest our most precious commodity - time. The beauty of such investment is that it can never be taken away. That's not to say that our relationships won't have ups and downs - they will. But like a well-managed mutual fund, our relationships will grow in proportion to how much we invest in them.
Do you know someone who's rich in God's economy? I know Frank from my soccer team. He recently presented me with a get well card, signed by my teammates, after my little cycling incident - but he does stuff like that all the time. Frank's rich. The hot brunette, while she takes good care of me, invests a lot of her time taking care of others. The abundance of phone calls, text messages, and cards on special occasions validate it - she's rich.
I could certainly add to this list, but the point is it's in relationships where we experience the most wealth. Let's remember to invest daily.
I know on occasion some of you scratch your heads and wonder (or email me) "what were you thinking?" This is one of those occasions. While researching a book and website called "Thin Within", I discovered some content that I really liked and found helpful - especially for me, a guy that could be accused of having sharp edges. It actually comes from a children's book.
The best children's stories offer many lessons for adults as well. One of these is The Velveteen Rabbit. It is a tale about a stuffed rabbit and his love for a little boy. One day, while on the nursery shelf with the other toys, Rabbit initiates a conversation with Skin Horse, who was "old and wise and experienced."
"What is REAL?" asked the Rabbit. "Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?"
"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real."
"Does it hurt?"
"Sometimes." For he was always truthful. " When you are Real you don't mind being hurt."
"Does it happen all at once, like being wound up, or bit by bit?"
"It doesn't happen all at once. You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't often happen to people, who break easily, or who have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby.
But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."
I hope you know someone who is "Real". They're very cool to hang out with. I happen to live with one. Only by the grace of God has she been able to stay with me!
"The Word For You Today" is a devotional booklet I receive from my church. It's also available online thanks to a church in Michigan. Today's message is "Being real". Kinda ties in to our story.
With a little extra time for family and friends over the holidays, here's a message from "The Word For You Today" that spoke to me.
Are you neglecting your loved ones?
The great Scottish essayist and historian Thomas Carlyle married his secretary, Jane Welsh. She continued to work for him but when she got ill, Carlyle, who was deeply devoted to his work, didn't seem to notice, so he allowed her to keep working. But he had cancer and eventually she was confined to bed.
Although Carlyle truly love her, he found that he didn't have much time to stay with her or much attention to give to her. Then she died. After the funeral Carlyle went up to Jane's room, noticed her diarylying on the table, picked it up and beagn to read.
One one entire page she'd written a single line: "Yesterday he spent an hour with me and it was like heaven: I love him so much". A reality he had somehow been too blind to see now revealed itself with crushing clarity. He's been too busy to notice how much he meant to Jane. He thought of all the times he'd been preoccupied with his work and simply failed to notice her. He hadn't seen her suffering. He hadn't seen her love.
Turning to the next page, he read words he'd never forget: "I've listened all day to hear his steps in the hall, but now it's late and I guess he won't come today." He put her diary back on the table and ran out of the house. Friends found him at the side of her grave, covered with mud. His eyes were red from weeping; tears rolling down his face.
"if only I'd known, if only I'd known," he cried. After Jane's death, Carlyle made little attempt to write again. Are you neglecting your loved ones?