This year marks my thirtieth in the Catholic renewal movement. Eleven thousand days, give or take a few, throughout which I’ve been employed, or in business, or both. It sort of goes without saying that this personal walk with God has had many effects on my work life, but I’ll say it anyway. I have seen with my own eyes, through the likes of sales concluded, contracts signed, due dates conquered, problems hurdled and monkey business exposed, how prayer works.
I have experienced, in subtle as well as startlingly distinct ways, how faith and hope and charity do not necessarily untangle knots. Instead, they certainly help when we are trying to. And then there’s my attitude towards money – how it’s made and used – which has certainly changed, as well as the way I deal with people I have encountered on the professional arena. Indeed faith has been teaching me, and here, in a small and singular nutshell, is what I have learned.
It’s Not All About The Money
For many years, our export business enjoyed a profitable cooperation with a particular government trade agency. Whenever they received inquiries for products that we carried, they recommended us, and this resulted in orders which yielded a healthy and fully documented commission for them as well.
This association was really heaven-sent. We never applied with them. It all started with a bolt-from-the-blue phone call which led to our first transaction mediated by their representative, Earnest, and many more followed. Earnest, who turned out to be true to her name, made our business with the government extremely pleasant.
She eventually announced her retirement and we projected there would be changes. We were right, but not in any way we expected. One day, we were called upon by two young gentlemen who introduced themselves as those who would look after the work Earnest had vacated. My husband was in a meeting, so I met with them alone. Small talk dispensed with, we discussed pending accounts and interesting prospects. I was just thinking the meeting was going well when suddenly, one of the young gentlemen asked me, “So, what about the ‘for the boys?’”
I did a double take, not sure I heard him right. Buying time, I asked him to explain what he meant, please, and, looking me straight in the eye, he did. They wanted to know how we intended to provide a cut for them both. I explained that a commission was paid to the agency from our contracts. Quite brazenly, he clarified, “That’s for the agency. This will be for us.”
In that moment, I prayed. “This is not right, Lord,” I whispered in my heart, “give me the strength, give me the words.” I had started to shake, and I felt a cold sweat. I took a long breath and as calmly as I could, I told our visitors, “We don’t do that.”
It Really Is The Best Policy
One of them replied, “That would be unfortunate, because then we will probably favor other exporters.”
Again, “We don’t do that.” It was the best I could manage. And in a very quick hurry, they left.
Well, we never—NEVER—heard from them again. And because they were in charge of our business, we never heard from the agency again. In fact, the accounts we were servicing died very quiet deaths very soon afterwards.
To his credit, my husband affirmed my decision, and we consoled ourselves with the knowledge that it was the right thing to do. Lost business was part of the price we had to pay in order to be good followers of Christ. In the light of our years in the renewal, in the light of how God had been working in our lives, we decided it was a fair exchange.
He Looks After His Own
In the aftermath of that experience, I sometimes stopped to consider a few things: How much did we lose in that decision? Whenever this thought occurred to me though, I arrested it. There is no use wondering over lost money, I would tell myself. And then, I would change the question: How much did I gain in that decision? How much did my spirit grow? How much did my Guardian Angel rejoice? How much did my Lord take pleasure? Always, those are better things to wonder about…
The story doesn’t end there. It’s been many years since that nuclear moment. We have said goodbye to exporting, having gone into a new business area altogether. Time and again, there are calls for some tough moral decision-making, complete with cold sweat and shivers. Through it all, one thing has been certain: On my own it will always be iffy. With a faithful God as my Guide and Help however, I sleep well at night.