It started with the "Be Kind" billboard as we approached Green Valley on our way through Wisconsin. My wife and I looked at each other and commented on how great the billboard was and how no sponsor was identified with it. It was a simple reminder of how to act.
We checked into our hotel and were met by one of the most inviting greetings we have ever experienced. This was not the desk clerk, this was a housekeeper. The next morning, I was walking to breakfast with my maps app on my cellphone and a guy stopped me and asked if I needed any help. As I ventured past a coffee shop, another man was walking around with a tray of coffees asking homeless people if they cared for some. Everyone greeted me with a smile.
Small sample size, but I was ready to move. But then I got to thinking about what contribution I could make to help others experience this. How am I adding, and when am I detracting?
As you can imagine, I spend a lot of my time talking to people about money. Some are anxious because they are spending more than they can afford. Others worry about losing what they already have. Some people are angry because they came through a difficult divorce, are confronting family issues or unexpected health concerns. All of these things are real. But what else is real? For most of us, every day is not our worst day.
The late Rev. Peter Gomes once said, "It does not take a great deal of imagination or courage to imagine God is on your side when you are prospering or winning; it takes a great deal of imagination or courage to imagine that God is on your side when you are suffering or losing." Setting our higher power relationship aside, the question that my road trip made me consider is, how best can we be on someone's side?
In my business, much comes down to helping people have a better connection with their money. Are their values and actions aligned? When a client wants something that they can't afford, can I listen deeply enough so that I may better understand alternatives? And if not, can I be compassionate enough to sit with them through their disappointment? Ironically, if I am rushing to fix something, I may be serving my needs rather than theirs. Can I respectfully show what other possibilities exist?
I realized on our trip that rather than getting discouraged by the many things out of our control, we can have affect others through the many small things in our control.
Spend your life wisely.
Ross Levin is the chief executive & founder of Accredited Investors Wealth Management in Edina