The Best Investment

Updated: Jul 19, 2020

November, 2017

Any day is a great opportunity to give thanks and appreciate life. Thanksgiving just happens to be a particular moment to reflect on the gifts of our present, the blessings we’ve enjoyed in the past, and appreciate anyone who’s enriched our life.

I also give thanks for things to come. I don’t know exactly what the future holds, but the road ahead always looks brighter when I invest my time and energy in what matters most: my relationships with family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, and folks I serve.

This includes anticipating relationships I don’t yet have. I look forward to people I’ve still to meet who may be quite significant in my life.

I acquired this habit as a teenager from a man who attended my church. Alvin was a multi-millionaire who grew up dirt poor in the hardscrabble Texas Hill Country. That region - roughly the size of New Jersey - did not have electricity until the late1940s.

Alvin rose from a disadvantaged childhood and a 5th-grade education, to becoming the largest supplier of chickens in Texas. If you bought a chicken at any grocery store or you ate chicken at any restaurant, it came from Alvin.

One Sunday I found myself sitting beside him at a potluck dinner. He was down-to-earth and always interested in what you were up to. He never stopped asking questions. When he had taken a bite and I was finally able to get a word in edge-wise, I asked how he got into the chicken business. He leaned over in a conspiratorial way and said, “I’ll tell you a secret. I’m not really in the chicken business. I’m in the people business.”

He went on to say that from early on in his life he approached everyone he met as if they were the most fascinating person in the world, and destined to become his best friend.

Everyone, he said, is worth getting to know. Everyone has potential. Everyone you meet is someone God has placed on your path, because you can learn from them. They might even become your next best friend.

He said, “So, that’s my real business. I invest in people. The whole chicken thing just came along because a friend sold me a few hens and a rooster one day. But it could’ve been anything.”

I’ve tried my best to adopt Alvin’s approach to investing. It’s an attitude of perpetual appreciation and hope for what is – or more accurately, who is – about to come into view.

At Thanksgiving and through the year, it’s important to be grateful for the past and the present, but to also ask ourselves how avidly we are investing in our relationships, present and future. Are we giving thanks for all that God will do in placing people on our pathway?

We can see every person we meet as inherently worthy, fascinating, and quite possibly, our next best friend. It’s an investment which pays off in a life of perpetual appreciation, hope, and thanksgiving.

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