Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Medicare Card Blues

Recently I received my Medicare card in the mail. A little over a month from today I will celebrate my 65th birthday, one of those important birthdays. I am old enough to have buried a few of my contemporaries, but still young enough to have a functioning body and mind, although neither works quite as well as it did thirty years ago. I am at a point in life when I am watching a third generation pass out of childhood to begin the long march to the grave.

Although this is a personal finance blog with an intentional over-emphasis on investment, I have been thinking about the importance of position, direction, and velocity as it applies to my walk as a Christian. My beliefs about the Bible, the Church, and what constitutes the Faith have evolved over the years of my life. My beliefs are not the same as they were when I came close to trapping God in a box during my twenties. It would be profoundly depressing if they hadn’t changed over all that time. My prayer is that they continue to change as I continue to move through my remaining years.

As I look at people moving through their careers and the seasons of family life, I have learned that direction and velocity are more important than initial position. Your current position, financial, spiritual, or relational is what it is (as the football players are fond of saying). Are you moving in a direction that will bring you closer to your goal? How fast are you moving? These are the important questions.

To what degree we are the product of our environment and to what degree we are responsible for our current situation, really doesn’t matter as much as what we choose to do to move towards something better. It is a matter of the heart. A person who has made the decision not to accept the status quo and is taking action to improve some dimension of their life is already better off that someone who doesn’t care or has just given up.

Recently I watched the documentary Born Rich, produced by Jamie Johnson, one the heirs to the Johnson & Johnson pharmaceutical fortune. He interviews young adult children of billionaires, not just your regular run of the mill billionaires, but really serious billionaires. Some of these young people seem to be doing a pretty credible job finding a purpose for their life and goals that give their efforts meaning. Others can charitably be described as—a mess. I suspect that most of this group would be a mess with or without money. A surprisingly small number of these young adults have made the decision to kick back and enjoy an obscenely decadent and somewhat debauched lifestyle that can only be supported by a nearly inexhaustible supply of money.

They didn’t do anything to enjoy the benefits or the real, serious problems associated with wealth and celebrity status. Imagine learning that your parents are going to divorce for the first time from a horde of reporters and paparazzi descending on you at the end of your school day. At stressful times I like to joke that in my next life I will do a better job selecting my family, but on that Day I won’t be asked by my Lord and Savior about the hand I was dealt.

I will be asked to explain how I chose to play the cards in my hand.

May God have mercy.

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