New Year’s Eve, 1977. This young man had made plans. A beautiful girl…friends…the party would go on into the wee hours. But, in a single moment the day before, those plans were decimated. By the beautiful girl’s father, no less. Yes, he was also my boss, and he had a different idea of what should happen in the early hours of the morning on New Year’s Day. His concern was with the dawn side of the wee hours, though. “Everybody will be here at 6:30 to take inventory. No exceptions. It’s probably not a good idea to stay out too late.” What a let down! I had expected to sleep very late, but instead of that, I would be up before dawn to head for work! I should have realized that it was a harbinger of what every New Year’s Day would be for the foreseeable future.
Not a single of those inaugural days in the year has passed since then that hasn’t found me counting musical merchandise. Guitars, amplifiers, instruction books, bongo drums…right down to the little guitar picks; every year, it’s the same thing. While others sit at home and sip coffee, watching the parades and preparing for the bowl games, I’m here with the Lovely Lady tabulating the quantity of every last item in the music store. It is one of the things I enjoy the least about being in business for myself, but it has to be done. The authorities require it. My banker would be most unhappy if it wasn’t completed. On top of that, it just makes good sense from a business point of view to be aware of the profit or loss, the gain or shrinkage of the stock, for the year just past. For the government, the result determines the amount of taxes which may legally be levied on the taxpaying proprietor. For the banker, the resulting financial statement is a good barometer of the ability of said proprietor to repay any loans which may be requested. For the business, the numbers serve to give direction for future purchases, and to guide decisions in whether to continue on or abandon, a particular path of marketing.
I hate inventory because of the drudgery. Count, write, count, write, count, write. “634, 635, 636…No, I haven’t gotten to the strings yet. I’ll get to them after I finish the picks. Now, where was I? Oh, great! 1, 2, 3…” When the counting is over, the tabulation begins. “How much did we pay for the bagpipes? Did we get them last year, or was that the year before?” I do not like accounting. Like Anne in the “Green Gables” books, I would say that there is “no scope for imagination.” Numbers are so confining, simply enumerators of cold objects. I hate looking at the guitars on the wall as just an investment. I’d much rather consider them as exciting pieces of art, which themselves have the capability of producing great beauty. The music books aren’t just paper and ink, merchandise to offer to customers with cash in hand; they have the potential of unleashing melodies and harmonies that already lie hidden within the musician, opening pathways to sublime worship or freeing hearts to express love. But, no. There are 24 guitars hanging here with a combined value of however many dollars have been invested. Today, several thousand dollars worth of printed paper reside in the bins that yesterday held music, or at least the promise of it.
I have to admit that this is the first year I have actually thought seriously about what we are doing here on this, the most hated of days for me. I am finally realizing that my music store’s future depends on these numbers. The viability of my business is tied up in an accurate count of each item. Quite aside from the fact that my freedom from prison depends on the government being satisfied that the accounting has been made in the absence of fraudulent reporting, the future for the Lovely Lady and me is relying heavily on the completion of this abhorrent task. So, I go on counting and reporting. Year after year, the end-of-year accounting determines the direction for the next three hundred sixty-five days and beyond.
Isn’t is amazing how much running a business resembles real life? For some reason, the end of each year seems to be a logical, one might even say comfortable, place to pause for a moment. As we prepare to move into the new year, we take a little breather; we look back. The fatiguing incline leading up through the holidays has winded us. We are tired and maybe, a little cranky. But there up ahead, just before we crest the hill, we see a park bench inviting us to rest. So we sit and gaze back down the path we’ve just traveled, laboring upward, pushing forward to the end of the year. And from this vantage point, we take inventory of the year; noting there, the joyful celebrations, and on down further, the hard times. Sometimes we see the long, dark sections of the path which point out the sadness we felt as we thought there was no hope of sunshine ever again. But, as we look back, we see the progression, the leaning forward into the future which now opens just over the summit at which we rest in this brief moment.
But, we cannot stay here long. The accounting is indeed brief, the tabulation must be completed quickly. Time hurries on and so must we. I’m finding, as each year passes, that this is an important intermission, this time of inventory. Decisions are made, directions are adjusted, and the path is taken up again. We hurry on once more, the goal still ahead and never behind. I wish it were cut and dried; the addition and calculation of profit and loss as simple as the business proprietor’s bookkeeping. It is not. I don’t think it is supposed to be.
So again, the New Year has overtaken us. I hope your inventory was favorable. Even if it was not, there is still time. The year stretches out ahead and allows corrections in our course. I trust that your reckoning will be accurate and the path clear in front of you.
For me, the physical inventory at the store past, I breathe a sigh of relief and await the next challenge. No doubt, the morning light will reveal it. I think I’m ready…
“May God give you…
For every storm a rainbow, for every tear a smile;
For every care a promise and a blessing in each trial;
For every problem life sends, a faithful friend to share;
For every sigh a sweet song and an answer for each prayer.”
“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Jesus Christ took hold of me.”