This I Believe

Dustin - Eagle, Idaho
Entered on May 6, 2009
Age Group: 30 - 50
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The Year was 2008

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. As the economy and the real estate market continued to plummet, this was a learning experience of epic proportions. I found out what it was like to build a fortune and lose it. I learned the value and wisdom of living simply, and how little you really need to live a happy life. I learned that your friends and your children don’t really care what you have and what you don’t…they love you because of who you are. Here are some highlights (and lowlights) of the past year.

1. Politically, it was a year that made history. Barrack Obama proved victorious as our first black president, and America celebrated in the streets. Thousands upon thousands crowded the streets of Chicago for the acceptance speech. The Reverend Jesse Jackson openly wept tears of joy as he realized that the “dream” that he and Martin Luther King Jr. fought so hard for had finally come to pass; men truly had become equal, and America would have its first black president. His campaign was built around “Hope”, and that word is on everybody’s lips and minds as we move into 2009. Hope can be a very powerful force…I hope he delivers.

2. Financially, it was a year of absolute disaster; a train wreck that no one saw coming. If all the hurricanes in history combined and swept through Wall Street, they couldn’t have done more damage. America stood by in shock and awe as our credit system crumbled, the mortgage industry suffered a major meltdown, and the stock market fell to its knees as it was almost cut in half. The smartest minds on Wall Street were dumbfounded as banks and financial services companies that had been around for over a century were shut down literally over night. As the entire industry’s dirty laundry was brought to light, white collar crooks who had secretly been financially raping their clients for years were exposed left and right, and it seemed that the terms “Money Manager” and “Financial Planner” were synonymous with “Crook” and “Thief”.

3. Personally, it was probably one of the biggest lessons in humility I have ever had. What an opportunity to learn the importance of balance and moderation in ALL things; that anything in excess is dangerous. Even water becomes toxic and lethal if consumed in excess. The pendulum of life cannot swing in one direction forever. It will always swing back just as far the other way. I learned the value of honesty and integrity, and that they truly are more important than any worldly possessions. Helen Keller said, “Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired, and success achieved.” What an opportunity to look at my own self in times of trial, to see my own strengths and weaknesses surface and to learn from both of them.

Life is such a wonderful thing, what an absolute treasure. What an opportunity God gives us to come down here and practice on the playing field of Divinity. Like a young little league player being granted the chance to step onto the green of an empty baseball stadium and imagine the possibilities that exist with practice and time. How do we learn to succeed if we’re never given the opportunity to fall? How do we learn just who we may become without being given reminders from He who has been there before us?

Yes, I could look back on this last year and say that it was the worst of times. I have stressed and struggled and suffered. But with introspection and the gift of eternal perspective, I find that I have learned, I have grown, and I am now stronger than I was before. And because of that it has truly been the best of times. I have a family that loves me unconditionally, I have friends who support and uplift me, I have the gift of laughter which heals so many wounds, I have the freedom to choose my destiny every day, and I especially have my God who will never forsake me. So while I have been given challenges, I have a smile on my face because I know that around the corner lies another stunning vista, and I am truly grateful for this journey called life.