I don’t understand business. I stumble around in the dark, hoping my latest decision was an intelligent move, but I’m never quite sure. I’m always amazed when someone calls me a “successful businessman”, since I’m not sure that either term applies. I’ll accept the compliment, but will dispute any imputation of merit. Let’s just say that sometimes the Lord lets stupid people do smart things, and leave it at that.
I have realized something in the last year, though. We’re in a recession. I’m guessing that’s no surprise to most of you who pay attention to politicians and the commentators who masquerade as newsmen on your televisions. All of them have been telling us for over two years that the sky was falling, so I should have seen it coming. For some reason, in all three of the national recessions which the Lovely Lady and I have weathered in running our business, we’ve not felt the effects until most of the country is on the way out of the slump. This time has been different, though. Overall, business is still very good. Customers are still buying, the orders are still flowing in, and our bills are being paid. So, where’s the problem?
The increase in instruments brought into the music store to sell has been exponential for the last ten months. What used to be a trickle of customers coming in the front door carrying instruments became a flood almost overnight. I was startled to find that the local pawn shops have even started refusing to buy any guitars. It’s sad, but the logic is clear. When people run out of money, they let go of the most disposable and least necessary items they have, to replenish their cash supply. The cheap guitars are piling up around here like cord-wood at a campsite and they keep coming. I remember the day when I anticipated the incursion of individuals bearing instruments under their arms, because there was a sense of adventure about it. One never knew what choice jewel might be presented when the guitar case was opened. No more. These are just shiny costume jewelry and scratched, dirty rhinestones at that. No treasures to be found here. Well, not from my perspective, but I’m finally realizing that they are treasures to the folks who wag them in, wishing they could keep them, but knowing they have no choice.
I found myself in a slightly different situation today, as a well-dressed gentleman came in bearing an almost new guitar case. “I lost my job and have to pay the bills. I’ve got this almost new guitar and maybe another one if you can’t give me enough for it.” I had just purchased a guitar from the previous visitor, who was being sued for divorce by his wife. “I paid fifty thousand dollars for her college education and this is how she pays me back,” he had wailed as he showed me his treasure. I gave him what I could for the instrument and turned to this latest individual, who quite obviously was out of his element. I made him an offer, and he accepted it, telling me as he pocketed the check, “I’ve never sold anything this way before, but what else can I do? I can’t eat it and the gas company won’t take it in payment of my bill.” I tried to encourage him as he left, and sat down at my desk.
It’s easy to be discouraged by all these sad people, but I remember being where they are. Well, not exactly where they are; it’s just to me it seemed about like that. The Lovely Lady and I had been married for three years and our first baby had just been born. We were trying to buy our first house, but just hadn’t been able to put back any money in the bank. She was just out of college, we had bills to pay, and the insurance wasn’t going to pay anywhere close to all the hospital bills from the delivery. I looked out in our driveway and stared at the 1955 Chevy 2-door sedan. It was a dream car, but it wasn’t a necessity. In a way, this one was a no-brainer. We made the decision and a few days later, walked into the bank with the money for a down payment on our first house. Our babies were going to have a home! No, there wouldn’t be a ’55 Chevy parked in the driveway, but some things take priority. You make hard choices to do what you need to do. I still miss that car. But I have no regret for the action we took. That treasure was expendable. My family is not.
At times, I’m overwhelmed by humanity in need. Other times, I stand in awe at the resilience of the spirits these people demonstrate. They’re knocked down, but not beaten. I’m thinking; these folks are going to make it, as long as they have treasures to let go of, and sappy businessmen to shell out a little cash for them. The rest is in God’s capable hands.
But if you’re hunting some treasures, come on by and visit me. I’ve been collecting them from almost a year now…
“One who cannot cast away a treasure at need is in fetters.”
(J.R.R. Tolkien~English author)
“Do not rejoice over me, O my enemy. Though I fall I will rise; Though I dwell in darkness, the LORD is a light for me.”