Enjoy life or endure it
Some people refuse to embrace the future, a sad, regrettable choice. I still remember reading about a woman who lived destitute, picking up clothes at a clothes closet, begging for food, and finally wasting away alone at a nursing home. But after her death, authorities discovered she had left behind more than a million dollars, including $800,000 in cash and several hundred shares of valuable stock, stored away in two safety deposit boxes.
Another example of failing to live with an eye on the future comes from a bequest made to BCH. It involved the estate of John Duncan, a man who did not trust banks. When he could not persuade his friend, Bob Lotz, to take $8,000 of the cash he had accumulated, he declared he would bury the money and did not care if it was ever found.
When Duncan, who never married, died, he left us all his possessions. Appointed the estate’s executor, Lotz spent more than a year looking for buried and tucked away money. True to his word, Duncan had squirreled away his cash. The only easy find was $46.45, which Lotz located the day of his friend’s death. From there he started removing doors, window trim, and electrical wall outlet plates, searching every nook imaginable. Three days later he found more than $2,000 beneath a potato bin. He returned to search a few days a week for months.
Finally, frustrated that he had not located the main cache, Lotz prayed, “Look, God, you know I’m honest. I tried looking and I’m tired. Please let me find it. You know I’ll turn every cent in; it’s for a good cause.”
On his next excursion into a woodshed, he noticed a plastic medicine tube against the foundation and a Wheaties box containing $1,580. He returned to the pump house, studying the thick concrete walls and removed the roof. This time he found four plastic bags with a total of $7,000. A couple of months later, he found eighteen $100 bills in a peanut butter jar in a hog house. In the rafters above was a tobacco tin with seven more. Total cash discovers came to just over $13,000.
These are extreme examples, and it is too easy to cluck, “What fools!” while overlooking the ways in which we cling to fear. Is choosing “stability” actually casting a vote for boredom? Or “prudently” piling up ever-larger retirement accounts in reality dreading that some old-age disease will suck away our life savings? Is a refusal to share with those who are less fortunate a reflection that we do not think there will be any more to replace what we give away? Only you can answer these questions.
Fortunately, we have two precious resources to help guide our steps. The first is experience. We do not have to plow fresh ground constantly. We can stand on our predecessors’ shoulders. Each generation does not have to discover anew the law of gravity, invent the light bulb, or design engines from scratch although we can improve on them as is with the case of LED bulbs and Tesla electric cars. In a broader sense, the lessons of history are there to speak to us, to learn from, and to get right what others got wrong––if we will listen.
Secondly, and on a smaller scale, we carry the lessons of personal history. We learn the folly of rediscovering old territory. When we experience a nasty bout of indigestion, we shun the foods that caused it. When we know what causes our allergies to flare up, we stay away from the source of swelling and sneezing. Remembering the times when we lost our temper should help us develop a more patient nature as we mature.
But experience is not enough. We also need expectation. Although we can recall the past, we must be able to anticipate the future. We spend numerous years being educated in hope of finding a good job. We follow a diet for weeks or months, keeping our eye on a trimmer figure. We spend hours at the keyboard, harvesting excellence at the piano. The effort is worth it because of expectation.
Everyone needs to find something in life to look forward to––to anticipate. We make a mistake if we think it has to be a trip to the Bahamas or a vacation to Hawaii. It could be welcoming home a child from college or watching your grandchild march in the homecoming parade. We all need to learn to find value in anticipating small events and learn how to make them special.
Enjoy life or endure it. I much prefer the first option. Keeping an eye on the future is one way of walking the more pleasant path.
My Thoughts is written by Michael C. Blackwell, BCH President/CEO