Can you dig deeply into your memory and recall way back when we would gather together for various events? On one such occasion, my husband delivered a speech for the economics department on a bucolic college campus. Before the talk, we were invited to a reception to meet professors, alumni, and donors.
I was seated next to a man who only a few years earlier had graduated from this institution with a degree in economics. At this point, he was running a small business. If memory serves me correctly it was some sort of printing operation. While he had been gratified with the growth trajectory of his enterprise until this point, he was now very unsettled. After chatting for a bit, he began to unburden his soul to me. I don’t use that language lightly; he was in the grips of a moral dilemma.
Early on, he discovered that owning a business meant working long hours, both when his store was open and when it was closed. He learned that business problems come in every variety and rarely conform to textbook descriptions. He realized that when money was tight, he was the person who went unpaid. As he found his footing and started carefully building a team of employees, he began to envision offering new services and perhaps expanding to a new location. Therein lay the source of his angst.
A raise in the minimum-wage was being proposed in his area. As a compassionate college graduate, this was the type of increase for which he had always voted in the past. Who wouldn’t want everyone to earn a decent living? However, for the very first time in his life the reality of this issue was smacking him in the face. While he appreciated his employees’ work, they were inexperienced and still acquiring basic soft-skills such as punctuality and a service-oriented attitude. Competence in those soft-skills was necessary before he would invest the time to train them in more job-specific expertise. In the future, they might well merit more money, but at the moment that wasn’t the case. A raise in the minimum wage would mean letting people go and doing more of the work himself. His chances of expansion would lessen and his ex-employees were going to lose not only their jobs but also the opportunity to gain experience and grow with a prospering company.
I truly felt sorry for my table-mate. The sentiments he learned in college didn’t walk hand-in-hand with the real world. His (misguided) self-image demanded that he vote one way, while the facts in front of him dictated the opposite vote.
After a pleasant evening, we parted and I have no idea what this college graduate is doing today. But the economic fantasy that accompanied him through college is once again raising its head.
Hebrew isn’t a foreign language;
it’s one of the ways that God transmits meaning to us.
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