“Community development and economic development can be at odds if the focus is pushing economic development.”
My wedding ring saved my finger. My wife’s played a part in saving her life.
Sometimes, lost in thought, I’ll catch myself absently twisting and turning it round and round. My best friend of 41-years-marriage made it herself. Cast from a simple circle of wax melted away in the white-hot heat of a furnace and replaced by molten gold, the ring got caught one day in the closing of a car door. I hollered – more for affect as it turned out once I discovered I wasn’t hurt – and from then on it’s been bent out of shape and won’t slip over the knuckle.
On the other hand (no pun intended) my wife’s “token-of-commitment-that-you-will-keep-these-vows” had to be cut away when the emergency room staff became alarmed at the purplish color angrily spreading beyond the diamond of her rapidly swelling finger.
The bees did not take kindly to her traipsing through their territory – a neglected pile of brush and leaves in our yard which they had laid claim to but with which bees she had begged to differ.
Stung over and over – and over again – the bees in her hair and in her clothes, she threw up on the way to the hospital. Everywhere. Windshield, dashboard, clothing, all inundated.
And she was becoming unresponsive.
I was losing her.
They rushed her in, hooked her up to all manner of whatever, and then noticed the restriction caused by the ring.
One Christmas, now many years back, she picked out a replacement given the ‘never ending circle’ of hers had ended.
Occasionally, not often enough, I’ll hold her hand and reflect on what matters most.
Like the time in the parking lot of the underground garage below the high rise medical facility where we had an appointment for x-rays to determine why – sometimes in the middle of the freeway, sometimes behind the shopping cart at the grocery store – her eyesight would completely shut down and her world would go totally dark, a disaster in the making in either case.
Everything immediately in front of her and all around her would disappear.
Then, in what seemed like an eternity but usually was an interminable second or two – although at 60 mph a lot can happen in 88 feet/second – it would all come back.
But not this time.
The elevator doors opened and I stepped inside but she didn’t join me.
She wasn’t there.
With the honking horns of busy mid-day traffic without, and the unfamiliarity of the underground garage where cars could be heard coming and going within – somewhere very close to where she was – she stood stock still beside the passenger door.
She couldn’t see.
It had returned.
Silently cursing myself for being so insensitive while at the same time realizing I too had only recently been thrust into this unfamiliarly dark and most unfriendly and unwanted world certainly not of our choosing I retraced my steps and took her hand and we crossed together.
Whether its marriage or family or church or community, or any organization or business, we tend to lose sight of what matters.
Take the quote that introduces this article. It is from page three of our own city’s agenda packet for January 6, 2014.
Often times we will have to choose between the two.
For example there’s the scourge of the fly-borne-parasite-caused river blindness, “one of the world’s most dread diseases.”
With “85 million people at risk in thirty-five developing countries, 20 million people afflicted worldwide, a third of a million completely blind,” sometimes cutting “life expectancy by a third or more,” would you make available the cure if you knew those who needed the drug couldn’t afford it?
Especially given the average cost of bringing “a single drug to market required an average $200 million and twelve years”?
Unless your company axiom – “health precedes wealth” – was more than a feel-good promotional slogan, on a par with “until death do us part,” and you and your stockholders actually, fiercely, meant it: you wouldn’t.
But Merck did.
One of the nation’s leading pharmaceutical firms, Merck’s mission is declared in its charter: “We are in the business of preserving and improving human life. All of our actions must be measured by our success in achieving this goal.”
The river blindness Merck miracle is the first of “nine true stories told of triumph and disaster and their lessons for us all” in “The Leadership Moment” by Michael Useem.
One of those lessons – and questions – concerns whether all our actions are measured by a wedding-ring commitment to the goal that describes the relationship, family, community, business, or organization we are in.
Triumph or disaster may well depend on our answer.