You are probably already familiar with a great quote attributed to Chuck Swindoll about Attitude, but it is worth repeating in these unusual times.
“The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company…a church….a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past…we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude…I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you…we are in charge of our attitudes.”
With that in mind, this post is not written for anyone who has lost a loved one, or suffered great physical or mental hardship during the 2020 Coronavirus Pandemic and Lockdown. To you I offer my deepest regret and sympathy. I am very sorry.
Nor is it written for the small minority of those who have somehow prospered dramatically due to a particular product or service in great demand. You are very lucky.
This post is written to the great majority of us in the middle of the bell curve who have so far been inconvenienced and tested in unexpected ways: loss of income, homeschooling, no graduation, working from home, business on the brink, living together 24/7, no travel, no dining out, upended investments, limited sports, entertainment at home, a more uncertain future, etc.
And it is a post written to my future self for re-reading later this year, probably in October.
I suspect that those of us in this great majority are going to experience further negative impact on our income, investments and savings in the coming months, maybe years. It is fair to say that certain industries, along with their employees, suppliers and investors, are about to be hit in multiple ways between now and the fall, none of them good. It seems very probable that there must be a net decrease both in income and in investment values, from education to stocks to real estate, meaning a reduction in our household wealth across the board.
But that is true only if you measure wealth in terms of money.
What if you take the Attitude that we are experiencing a God-ordained, government-enacted forced investment program? Not in investments denominated in dollars, but in investments denominated in time, relationships, caring and love.
When the difficult financial reality does set in later, if we have the right Attitude, we can say that we made investments this spring in even more valuable assets—assets that had become neglected or rundown by lack of attention. We are richer and more wealthy in those areas—and they can never be taken from us.
In our case my wife and I have started to list on a pad the Pros and Cons of these past weeks, so that we can pull it out later to remind ourselves that so far the Pros have far outweighed the Cons. If we had children and grandchildren at home, we’d be sure that everyone participated in filling out this list.
Since some negative financial news is bound to be coming our way, it’s all the more reason to have a specific list of the other treasure we’ve been investing in, because it will still be with us, and our non-material net worth has definitely increased during these weeks.
Plus our attic has never been so empty and organized as it is now, along with our basement and closets. As we’ve organized boxes of photos and papers for each grown child, we’re relived memories and laughed at sayings. Our goal is to present each child with his or her own box in the near future. Without the coronavirus, that project would have remained a well-intentioned but vague idea. Now it’s almost a finished reality. That’s building boxes of tangible wealth!
Since we believe that God is in charge of everything, He’s also in charge of this virus, the lockdown, and our investments in each other. In the same way that He gently tried to get my attention almost four decades ago before finally revealing all my failings, bringing me to my knees in surrender to Him, maybe He’s trying to get our national attention one more time to focus on the only part of His creation that really matters to Him and the only part that will actually transition to eternity: people. All made in His image. Every single person. Born and unborn.
Perhaps He is specifically reminding us to invest in and to protect others, and thereby to Lay Up Treasure in Heaven before it’s too late.
What if we reflect in October and say, “Yes, I lost that monetary value because of the virus, but look at the investment in people I gained. Overall I’m actually much richer than I would have been because of what happened during those weeks last spring.” Attitude. “And I’m still investing now in the same way.” Wisdom.
I think personally I’ve been on Spiritual Cruise Control. Going to the right destination, but just not as actively involved in the process as I could be and should be. This virus has reminded me to turn that off and to take part in seemingly little things that I may not understand this side of eternity.
Beyond our family and our home, my Bible Study has added an extra weekly Zoom Prayer Time together, when we share about and pray for those around us. I’ve been intentional about giving a little money to those whom I suspect are in need, before they have to ask. I’ve prayed more for others, and in more detail. I’ve asked neighbors whether I can shop for them when I’m heading for the store. We had a Virtual High School Reunion and easily included classmates who live too far away to normally participate–it was great to see them and to renew old friendships. I had the opportunity to interact with 30 people in a company on the other side of the globe about coping and internal peace. Again, none of these are huge—I’m not expecting the Mother Teresa Award for these tiny acts. But I do feel more engaged in others’ lives, and I hope that these investments will pay rich dividends for many years to come, and beyond.
And of course I’ve been reminded by the events of early March that whatever I think my plans may be at any given moment, I should hold them with an open hand, and remember Who the Planner really is.
So it’s actually a great time to invest. The increase in real personal Net Worth is guaranteed.
And it turns out that it’s always a great time to make these kinds of investments! I just needed a strong reminder of that Attitude.