Satisfaction Pays an Intangible Salary
While those who favored Al Gore in 2000 are probably still mad at activist Ralph Nader for siphoning off enough votes to cost Gore the election, my memory of Nader goes deeper.
In an article that year, he wrote about returning to Harvard University for a 20-year reunion of his law school class.
Nader mentioned the grads who had taken six-figure jobs in corporate law, earning the rewards of new cars, suburban housing, and the best seats at the hottest attractions.
He spoke of the vacant stares on many of their faces, a testimony to their ill-advised decision. Their chief accomplishment, Nader said, was enriching corporate titans who made more money than their attorneys.
In his view, they had no satisfaction from meaningful societal contributions or helping the less fortunate.
I thought of Nader’s comment recently when I read an article by columnist Linda Arnold about how our everyday choices can make or break our dreams.
In it, she mentioned personal development trainer Jim Rohn’s guide to success, Five Major Pieces to the Life Puzzle.
Rohn’s book includes a story about a corporate executive named Bill. Although well-compensated, it had been years since he felt any enthusiasm for his job.
Still, he stuck with it because it was safe and better than the unknown. Then he volunteered with a nonprofit organization whose sole mission was to transform people’s lives. Ultimately, Bill took a job that offered a much more fulfilling life.
Arnold offered her own example about a chief financial officer who left that position several years ago to become the executive director of a hospice organization.
Commenting on the change, the former CFO remarked, “During all the years I was in the corporate world, nobody ever gave me a hug for what I was doing.”
Stories that Speak
One reason this column resonated with me were two features I worked on recently.
Since they have yet to be published, I hesitate to delve into too much detail, but the first involved a ministry in the Midwest that helps people with developmental disabilities. They include conditions like autism, Down syndrome, and learning disabilities.
Nine years ago, the ministry decided to focus more attention on education. Their college has graduated 74 students who work in horticulture, landscaping and restaurants. This school year, it added a technology major.
The remark that stuck out came from the ministry’s president, who spoke of God’s high opinion of those with disabilities. They aren’t a mistake, he noted.
“People say when they get to heaven they’ll be made whole,” he told me. “I’m not sure we won’t be like them. They’re some of the most loving, forgiving people I’ve ever known. They see with their hearts, not with their eyes.”
The other examined America’s megachurch culture, a growing—and sometimes controversial—phenomenon at a time of overall fading church attendance. The editor told me to interview supporters and detractors and let readers decide (the aim of good journalism).
Having been a member of small and large churches over the years, I approached the assignment with interest. I gained new insights as I interviewed numerous leaders and conducted research.
When I submitted the story, I did so with a smile on my face. It may prompt reflection, exploration, and contribute to people examining their spiritual lives more closely.
In the grand scheme of things, it will be a wrinkle on the hide of an elephant. But I will have made a small contribution to a meaningful topic, and that gives me great satisfaction. While money is necessary to support our life, the dollar shouldn’t define it.