What Money Never Tells You

Maile and I came home from our four-year stint in England bruised and battered. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was burned out from working too many hours for too many years under too much stress. A business that just didn’t quite take off, adjusting to a new culture, being away from home, employees stealing from us: the cumulative affect of those years was like a layer of barnacles on an old ship. Problem is, when they were scraped away, there wasn’t anything left of me.

I walked around like a purposeless zombie. I found myself staring off into the distance for long periods of time.

We lived with my parents during our transition (a recurring theme in my life). Money was running out. I was due to start a new business in the spring, but that was five months away. We had two small children, ages 3 and 2. Even worse, our marriage was straining under the weight of two unhappy, unsettled people.

Then I got the call: a friend of mine had lined up a logistics job for me in New Orleans, helping with the Hurricane Katrina relief effort. I would get paid to arrange hotel rooms for relief teams, schedule equipment comings and goings, that sort of thing. The pay was great, I think around $5,000 a month. To us, at that point, it was a fortune.

But there was a catch – the job would be for 30 days a month. No coming home. No seeing Maile and the kids. For three months. We looked warily at each other after receiving this news – we needed the money. But could the fragile thread that was our relationship survive the free weight of three months apart?

In a last ditch effort at finding God or saving our marriage or perhaps simply trying to do what was right, we said no. I found a part-time job painting houses. We lived in a continual gloom of depression in my parent’s basement, waiting for the spring.

* * * * *

But only a few weeks after making the decision not to take the money, I got a call from my aunt. She wanted to have breakfast. I remember pulling up outside the restaurant on a very gray not-quite-winter’s day. Mist. That’s all I remember: mist.

It was nice catching up. The restaurant bustled. Then she got a peculiar look on her face.

“Shawn! Someone just approached me about writing my life story. You’re a writer!”

I nodded. I liked to write. That was true.

“You should write a chapter and I’ll send it to my agent. You could write my story!”

A few weeks later we met. I interviewed her. We sent it to the agent. He sent it to a publisher. They liked it. I would write her book.

* * * * *

I often think back on my first book. Sometimes the thrill of fear fills me when I think about how close I had come to giving up a life as a writer for $15,000. If I would have taken that logistics job, would I ever have written my first book, the one that led to the second book, the third book? It gave me the connections I needed to slowly build this writer’s life.

* * * * *

I think we chase money too often. I think we believe the lies it tells us, that it brings security and love and happiness. A better life.

* * * * *

Soon after all of this happened, I started to think everyone should leave their jobs. Just get out while you can! Jump overboard! But when I look back at my journey, it was a four-year process of leaning (not leaping).

But there’s one thing I do know: if you make all the major decisions in your life based on money, there is a ceiling to what you can achieve. There are things that money never tells you:

It’s just a bunch of numbers.

It makes a lousy compass.

And, once you start trying to accumulate it, you can never have enough.

12 Replies to “What Money Never Tells You”

  1. Once again, Mr. Smucker, you found just what I needed to hear today.

    So much of life has been about leaning, almost to the point that my nose touches pavement, and so much of that has been so amazing – to trust that I won’t ever hit ground.

    And the recurring theme of living with parents – yep, sounds familiar! :)

  2. So, so true. Towards the end of my time working for hospice, I knew that it was time for me to move on. I also knew that if I didn’t do it in the next year, I’d probably never leave because at that point my benefits would have increased. I gave myself a deadline and within that time made the decision to move to Nashville. My life has taken an even funnier trajectory since then and I’m so thankful that I didn’t let money keep me at my old job. I would have missed out on so much!

  3. You have no idea how much I needed to hear this. I am currently looking at moving south because I know that is what God wants me to do. I can’t wait to start the adventure… yes scares me but there is joy in the uncertainty.

  4. A powerful message! If only I would have understood this 20 years ago. Although, I believe that our life experiences, good and bad, prepare us for our ultimate purpose when the time comes. The challenging part is having the courage and faith to listen to the voice deep inside us that tells us what we should do and trust in God’s path for us.

  5. Good stuff. These statements especially: “It’s just a bunch of numbers. It makes a lousy compass.” True that. Thanks again Shawn for opening your life to us so we can learn from it!

  6. God Bless You! Just discovered your website through the PennLive story.

    Through your sharing, God has given me yet another affirmation of what I know to be His leading.

  7. Thanks for sharing Shawn – This is touching; and may I add pandemic among the rank and file Americans
    Ei Yi Yi and My O My – what have we done with the soul of our country!?!?!
    It took a brain tumor in our family to help us see God’s Provision.
    Thanks for sharing your flash-light,
    Please pray that we’ll put it to good use.
    Kathryn and Jacob Dienner.

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