A penny is more than just a penny

With me are riches and honor, enduring wealth and prosperity. My fruit is better than fine gold; what I yield surpasses choice silver. I walk in the way of righteousness, along the paths of justice, bestowing wealth on those who love me and making their treasuries full.  Proverbs 8:18-21

“Good morning,” Mark said energetically as Ruth approached him from her car.

“Well someone’s in a good mood for a Monday morning,” she replied.

“I’m trying something new,” he said.  “Turning over a new leaf I guess.”

“Leaves get blown away by the wind,” she replied with a smile.

Ruth was Mark and Samuel’s first hire.  She was 27 years their senior, and they’ve known her since childhood.  She taught them in grade school, and over time, she’s become somewhat of a second mother to both of them.

“Where’s your tie?” she asked.

“Where’s your dress?” he fired back.  “What’s with the pants suit today?”

“Guess you can say I’m also trying something different,” she said.  “Now go put on your tie.  It’s nearly 8.”

“Ruth,” Mark said.  “How do you like working here?”

She was now behind the white marble-topped counter; her daily post for 6 years now.  Sitting her bag down, she glanced up at him over her slim, silver glasses.  “Why are you asking me this?”

“I don’t know, Ruth.  I just want to know,” he said.

Ruth placed her hands on her hips and looked up toward the brass chandelier hanging in the center of the room.  A few seconds passed before refocusing on Mark.

“I’ve always loved you boys.  I just knew you two were gonna make something of yourselves.  And look at you.  You’re doing it.”

“Wow,” Mark said.  “That was really nice.  We couldn’t do it without you, you know?”

They exchanged smiles.  Mark turned and began to walk away.  “I’m not done,” Ruth said.

Mark stopped and turned to face her.  “Oh, I’m sorry,” he said.  “I didn’t mean to…”

“I also love money,” she said.

“Well, who doesn’t?” Mark said, returning to the counter.  “It’s the best thing in life.”

“I beg to differ,” Ruth responded.  Mark just looked at her, caught off guard.

“Money is whatever we want it to be, Mark.  If we want it to be bad, it will be bad.  If we want it to be good, it will be just that.  When I say I love money, what I mean is I love what it can do for people when people use it well, when they use it to bless others.  I also hate it, and the entire time I’ve worked here, believe me I’ve learned to recognize those who use their money well and those who are completely controlled by it.  It’s so sad to me.”

Mark was now leaning on the counter with his chin resting on his hand.  He was listening intently.

“And to be very truthful with you, you worry me,” Ruth said.

Mark perked up.  “Why?” he asked.

“Because of comments like the one you just made,” she replied.  “Money isn’t the best thing in life.  It what’s we do with it that makes life grand.  Have you ever wondered why ‘In God we trust’ is imprinted on all our money?”

“Sure,” Mark said.  “It’s the official motto of the U.S.”

“True,” she said, “but there’s more to it than it, I believe. Did you know the Bible has more to say about money than love?  And so many of those verses talk about why you should avoid debt, worshiping money and how money turns people from good to bad.  Don’t you think it’s possible it was decided that ‘In God we trust’ should be on every coin and bill simply to remind us to use that penny or dollar bill as God intended?  Do you think it’s possible they were trying to help people not lose sight of what’s really important?”

“Wow,” Mark said.  “No, I’ve never thought of it that way.  Wow, Ruth, that’s pretty remarkable really.”

“I’m glad you think so,” she replied.  “

“So, why haven’t you ever told me about all this before?” Mark said.  “I had no idea.”

“It just never came up I guess.” she said, “but while we’re at it, there’s more I want to talk with you about after closing.”

———-

As a leader, do you help your team understand why your work matters, besides making money?

Do you or have you ever considered helping your team manage their money to help them reduce stress and improve their lives? You could change their life.

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The Turning Point

Now go; I will help you speak and teach you what to say. Exodus 4:12

An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up. Proverbs 12:25

The Sovereign Lord has given me an instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary.  He wakens me morning by morning. Isaiah 50:4

It was nearing 6 p.m. as Sarah returned to her office.  She knew Adam would already be gone for the day.

It had been an exhausting week of long meetings with clients, evening functions, interviews with applicants for the new account coordinator position and irritating requests and calls of all sorts.

She was beat.  Weeks like this made her question why she ever quit her job at one of the largest and most reputable marketing agencies around to strike out on her own.

But she knew the answer as she sunk into the cushioned, leather sofa she spent more time admiring during the day than actually utilizing.

Coffee in hand, she gazed slowly around the room, taking in the detail that was lost in the chaos of her average day.  The unevenness of the light, gray paint where it met the ceiling; the array of plants by the window; the picture of her team at last year’s Christmas party.  This was her’s.  She had created it.

Taking a sip, she rose from the couch, remembering she had a few emails awaiting reply and headed to her desk.  Lowering into her seat, she reached for her glasses and noticed a note next to them.

“That’s weird, “ she said aloud as she picked it up.

Just wanted to say thanks for hiring me. You’re a great boss and a better person.  See you tomorrow.

“That Adam,” she said.  She could feel a knot forming in her throat.  Her eyes watered.

She leaned back in her chair and removed her glasses, wiping her eyes with her hand.  She felt terrible about the way she’d treated him and others on the team lately.  Everything she’d said and did during the last month was rolling through her mind.  She read Adam’s note again, opened the top desk drawer, removed a tack and hung it on a small cork board.

She promised herself she’d never treat Adam or any member of her team badly again.

———-

The Bible instructs us to use our voices to lift others up.  In Exodus, God tells us he will teach us what to say, and later follows through by teaching us about the power of a kind word.  With that in mind, here are questions to ponder and comment on below.

Do you use kind words to strengthen your team?

Share a moment you were involved in or witnessed where a kind word made all the difference.

Old George

For lack of guidance a nation falls, but many advisors make victory sure. Proverbs 11:14

Plans fail for lack of counsel; but with many advisers they succeed. Proverbs 15:22

Mark was always the first to the bank.  The time at which he arrives until the doors open is his time.  Often, he just roams the building, enjoying the quiet and stopping to admire the antique oil paintings of scenes from the Revolutionary War and past U.S. presidents he’s collected since his twenties.

Every day at fifteen minutes until 8 a.m., when the bank opens for business, Mark’s long-time business partner and best friend, Samuel, walks through the side door, carrying his camel-tinted leather briefcase and homemade cup of coffee in a chipped University of Maryland mug.  Samuel was a banker’s banker.  He was cheap and loved making money.  Mark enjoys telling the story about Samuel giving fake flowers to a woman he used to date, declaring, “they last longer and are equally as thoughtful.”  She however saw it differently, and the next day she got her real lilies.

Mark and Samuel go way back.  They grew up together.  They know each others’ deepest secrets.  The intimacy of their friendship is one of the reasons they chose to open a business together.  They simply trusted each other like no one else.

As soon as Samuel entered the bank this particular Monday morning, he saw Mark staring at “old George.”  It was a painting of George Washington with his top officers accepting the British’s surrender at Yorktown, Va., on Oct. 19, 1781. Sarah had given it to him on his 32nd birthday.

“Do you think old George would have made a good banker?” Mark asked Samuel without even glancing in his direction.

“Well, let’s see,” Samuel said, walking slowly toward Mark.  “He rose in the military ranks quite well so that shows he was at least a decent officer.  He was later promoted to general and handpicked to lead the war effort against the British so that shows, at a minimum, he had an aptitude for leading men.  Thousands of them to be fair.  Oh, and let’s not forget he won that little skirmish.  And lastly, he was elected to be the country’s first president.”

“He was also tall,” Mark added.  “Intimidatingly tall.”

Samuel was now standing next to Mark eyeing the painting.  “A most astute observation. Obvious but astute,” Samuel said.

“Yeah, you’re right. He would have been horrid,” Mark said, turning away from old George.

“So, good morning,” Samuel said. “How was your weekend?  How’s…”

“I was thinking,” Mark interrupted, “we should really reconsider charging for checking.  I know we’ve been down this road, Sam, but we could use the income, and we’re only talking a few dollars a year from customers.  I don’t think we’d lose anyone over ten dollars a year.”

“How was your weekend?” Samuel replied.

“It was fine. So what do you think?” Mark said.

“I think it’s a terrible idea,” Samuel said.  “And for all the same reasons you agreed with two months ago when we discussed this.  Have you forgotten those?”

“No I haven’t,” Mark said.  “I just have a different perspective now.  I’ve thought about it more since then, and I think it’s doable.”

Mark folded his arms over his chest, staring at his friend.

“What was the fight about this time?” Sam asked.

“What are you talking about?” Mark said, sounding frustrated.  “Sarah and I didn’t fight about anything.”

“Who said anything about Sarah?” Samuel said.

Silence filled the room for a few seconds.  “Mark, every time you all have a fight, the next morning I come through that door and catch you staring at that painting followed by an overly hypothetical question, especially given the time, and then you hit me with some new idea or some old bad one.”

There was another long pause.  Mark refocused on the painting.

“It is a terrible idea isn’t it?” Mark said.

“For us, yes,” Samuel said.  “Let’s let someone make that mistake.  Then we’ll gladly welcome their customers as our own, and voila, income.”

“And then a new coffee mug for Sam,” Mark said with a big grin, walking backwards away toward the front door.

“Why don’t you do something useful for a change and go greet Ruth,” Samuel snapped back at him.  “It’s almost eight.”

“You got it!” Mark said.  “You’re the boss.”

——–

Did you know that God encourages surrounding yourself with wise advisors like Samuel?

Do you look for potential trusted advisors when you hire? 

The note

A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.  Proverbs 11:25

The week only got worse for Adam, following the berating he took from Sarah Monday morning.  Every day, she was on his case about something.  On Tuesday, it was message passing.  Wednesday, he couldn’t do anything right.  By the time Friday rolled around, he felt something he had never felt before about his job – dread.

The thought of Monday made him want to quit.  “What happened?” he asked himself.  “Is it me?  Is she not telling me something?”

Attempting to calm his nerves, he kept telling himself it was just an off week for Sarah and everything would be fine.  All would be back to normal next week.

But it wasn’t.  And things weren’t the same the next week or even the next.

After nearly a month of agonizingly tense days with Sarah, he started looking for another job.  However, he wasn’t quite ready to quit just yet. He still had faith Sarah would come around and return to the caring, smiling boss he had grown to respect and look up to.

Adam’s parents divorced when he was 17.  He watched their marriage slowly dissolve until all that was left was frustration and hatred.  He suspected something similar might be occurring with Sarah and her husband.

Adam had only met Mark once when he popped into the office and just as quickly departed.  He didn’t even speak to anyone.  That was 8 months ago.  Adam found it strange the only times Sarah even mentioned him were when he “messed up” or the one time he overheard her arguing with him on the phone about having to cancel their vacation to Europe.  She seemed to just shrug if off though.

At the time, he thought it was just normal ups and downs all married couples go through.  He now had his doubts.  He had seen this before.

For some reason, he felt like he could and should do something to help her.  Anything.  And he shouldn’t wait until the next day.  “In fact,” he told himself, “I’m going to make it a point to do something to make her life easier every day.”

It didn’t matter that she was his boss.  She was also his friend.

That day, before leaving for the evening, he placed a hand-written note on her desk that read:

Just wanted to say thanks for hiring me. You’re a great boss and a better person.  See you tomorrow.

That was the turning point.

———-

For part 1 of this story, read “Mark and the farmer,” and for part 2, read “Where are those stupid notes?”

When hiring, do you look for people who refresh and are givers like Adam?  

Do you have an Adam on your team?  Tell us about that person.

Where are those stupid notes?

A fool shows his annoyance at once, but a prudent man overlooks an insult.  Proverbs 12:16

Mumbling to herself, Sarah anxiously yanked open the drawers of the antique desk her father left her in his will two years ago.

“Where are those stupid notes,” she muttered.  “I left them right here.  I don’t understand.  Adam?”

Almost as if he anticipated being summoned, Adam quickly stepped into Sarah’s office. “Yes?” he said.

“Have you seen my notes for the presentation today?” Sarah asked.

“Yes they’re in the recycle bin by my desk.  You…,” he replied.

“They’re where? Why in the world did you throw them away?” she said, clearly annoyed and staring intently at him.  “Why would you do something that ignorant?  I need those notes!”

Sarah stormed by him and out of the office toward Adam’s workspace.  “And who said you could take things off out of my office any way?” she yelled back at him, now rummaging through the over-filled, blue plastic bin

“Sarah, if you’d let me explain,” he said.

“I don’t have time for your explanations, Adam.  The presentation is in less than an hour, and I need my notes,” she said.  “I can’t believe you’d do something this stupid, especially at a time like this.”

Adam stood stunned in the doorway to Sarah’s office, his mouth partially hanging open while she continued the verbal assault.  He had never seen her act this way, especially with him.  Working as her executive assistant for going on a year now, he had never seen her treat anyone this way.  Something was clearly troubling her, he thought.

Sarah had now emptied the entire recycle bin onto the floor.  On her knees, she rifled through the mound, wadding up and tossing individual pieces to the side.  “This is ridiculous.  I don’t see them anywhere.”

“They’re in your email!” Adam burst out.  His words hung in the air like heavy, white smoke on a humid evening.  Silence overtook the room.  Sarah had stopped rummaging, and Adam just stood there waiting on her to say something.

“They’re where?” she said.

“In your email,” Adam replied.  “I typed them up like you asked me to do yesterday, and I emailed them to you this morning, like you asked.”

Sarah still hadn’t moved.  While she felt relieved by this news, she also felt foolish.  Here she was the CEO of an up-and-coming marketing firm, rummaging through the trash after insulting someone she had grown to trust and count on.

“Would you like me to print them for you?  If it helps, I’ll gladly print them for you,” Adam said, as Sarah lifted herself to her feet.

About ten seconds passed before Sarah spoke.

“Yes,” she then said, staring at the hardwood floor as she wiped her gray skirt neat again.  “Yes, that would be good, Adam.”

Sarah then scooted past him again back into her office, sat down, put on her glasses and went back to work.

———–

If you missed part one of this story, Mark and the farmer, click here.

Have you ever experienced or witnessed a situation like this as a leader or a subordinate? How did or would you handle it?

Could you overlook this type of insult at work and forgive the other person?

Comment below to cue up a discussion, and if you like what you’re reading, subscribe!

Mark and the farmer

The farmer’s market was probably the busiest Mark had seen it all summer.  As he stood there in line, waiting to pay for the ten tomatoes he had carefully selected from the bunch, the owner of the stand approached him.

Gene was in his late sixties and dressed in worn, light-denim overalls and a large straw hat that had seen better days. His skin was tanned and weathered from years of farming in the sun.

“Back for more toms I see!  What do you plan to make with those this time?” Gene asked with a big smile.

“I’m not sure yet,” Mark, a wealthy local banker replied, “but probably a sauce of some sort.  We may just cut some up and eat them by themselves.”

“That sounds really nice,” Gene said, sitting a crate of cucumbers on the table, “even for those leftovers.”

Mark’s eyes widened a bit.  “What do you mean leftovers?  These are perfect.  It took me quite a while to pick through them all to find the best ones you have.”

Gene let out a small laugh, looked up at Mark, and pointed at the wooden sign hanging behind him.

“Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.” Proverbs 3:9

“What you buy here isn’t the best I’m afraid,” Gene said.  “We give those away.”

Mark stared at him with a stunned expression. “So, how much are we talking about here?  Fifty? One-hundred tomatoes?”

“Oh, goodness no!” Gene quickly replied.  “I’d say more like a thousand.”

“One-thousand?” Mark burst out.  “Why in the…?  Do you give that much away from everything you grow?”

“We sure do.  Been doing it for going on 40 years now.  We don’t miss it really.  And it sure does help a lot of people.”

Mark stood there calculating, shaking his head.  “I just don’t see how you could possibly stay in business when you give away so much of your product.”

“I don’t know for sure,” Gene said.  “You’d have to ask the Boss.  I just work here.”

————–

How are you using your job or business to help others? 

Does your business produce more product, provide extra services or donate money because it’s the right thing to do?

Time to transition

So you may be wondering what’s up with the new blog title and look.  As a subscriber or a frequent visitor, in fact, I’m sure you are.  Well, I encourage you to watch this video to learn what I’m up to.  At the end, I hope you decide to hang around.  It’s going to be a fun journey.

If the video won’t play in your viewer, click here.