I have a family friend named Jim whom I’ve known my entire
life. Jim is a brilliant, but difficult, person who inherited a
little money in the mid ’80s and invested it wisely so, while
not rich, he’s never had to work again.
A couple of weeks ago I called him for advice regarding some cash I
have in a savings account. It’s only a small amount, but
knowing that it’s sitting there earning virtually nothing
makes me feel silly every time I look at the balance.
There are a few stocks I’ve been watching, and I ran some
of the names by Jim to see what he thought.
“Stay away from the market!” he said in a tone that
sounded as if I had just plunged my hand into a vat of boiling oil.
“Everything will drop again,” he continued, “but
more importantly, our government will soon make it impossible to
earn money. Don’t buy stocks.”
I asked a number of questions about what he suggested I do, but
rather than provide answers, Jim talked for 45 minutes about the
death of America and the ruin of our economy. I tried to bring up
bright spots, but he wasn’t having any of it, instead
insisting that our freedom was gone and nothing could be done.
“OK then,” I finally said, exhausted and frustrated.
“I’ll just leave the money in my savings account. And
if everything is as terrible and hopeless as you say, then
there’s nothing I can do. I’m going to enjoy this
beautiful afternoon sitting in my backyard.”
“Enjoy it while you can,” he answered. “Soon
the government will take away all of our property.”
I listened for a few more minutes and then told him I had to get
off the phone. Jim’s negativity was an almost palpable force
that had sucked the joy right out of my day. I felt poisoned.
Over the next week I thought a lot about that conversation.
Clearly, Jim wanted me to agree with him, but the sheer force of
his rant shut me out. Had he approached it differently, he might
have found that we share some common ground. But his scared, angry
spirit required that I merely submit.
These are tough times for all of us. But these are also the
times when we need to listen especially closely to others and find
common bonds. Regardless of where you think the country is going,
these are the times when we need to reach out to our neighbor and
say, “What can I do for you?”
Our future depends on it.