The guy in the cube across the aisle laughs audibly, and calls me over. He points me to an email conversation he is having with the owner of a local air conditioning business. The company has been around for many years, and has been a sponsor of our non-profit for most of them. Now they are deciding that they are unwilling to continue that relationship, not because of anything we have done on our end, but because “the economy has been tough.” The owner stated explicitly in his email that “if you can find a way to get Obama out of office, then we will renew.” Of course, this is what my friend is laughing at. How are we even to counter such a preposterous proposition? Now, i know i have already touched on the subject of how the president has very little to do with the economy, and the ramifications of what he does control generally occur many years after he has left office, so i will not belabor those points in this post. (If anyone is interested, my take on that particular subject can be found by clicking here.) i instead will choose to direct my focus at another issue.
Several other data are necessary for us to have a complete picture of what is transpiring.
1. The owner is quite old, and has owned his business for close to 40 years in a fairly large city in west Texas, one which is hot and dry for many months out of the year.
2. He has done business largely the same way for the duration.
3. He advertises almost exclusively in the Yellow Pages, which is notoriously overpriced for the modern era, especially considering the likelihood that a given phone book will be used for anything other than a trash bag weight.
4. He does not have a website for his company, nor any social media, nor any official directory listings (i.e. Thumbtack, Buildzoom, etc.)
5. His company is still named AAA A-1 A-plus Services or something equally innocuous and preposterous. (side note: i happen to be the tiniest bit amused that a company called ZZZ is now many, many times more likely to stand out than one named AAA, due to its uniqueness.)
Now it is a widely recognized fact the primary way people find businesses in the current economic landscape is on the internet. So, given that a company has a name that is indistinguishable from at least 100,000 other companies out there, and given this owner’s refusal to put any effort into making his company accessible on the web, and since he absolutely insists on doing things the way he did them 35 years ago when he first started, it is not surprising to me at all that his business is suffering. i am not denying that there are industries that are greatly impacted by economic woes, such as manufacturing, but the A/C industry in Texas is not among them, for the most part. Perhaps this business has been forced to reduce the cost of a service call, but the volume of service calls at large is only going up. This is undeniably true: almost every major metro area with more than 10,000 residents is growing in Texas, and A/C is absolutely mandatory when temperatures in the summer reach over 100 degrees for the better part of 6-8 months every year. Additionally, new A/C companies are coming about all the time. People for whom you have worked for years will move away or pass away. New ones will come to the area, and the likelihood that someone new to the area is going to know who you are, or know anyone who does, is only going to decrease, and the rate at which it will decrease is only going to increase!
What i am driving at is this: a business owner who insists that he is doing business the right way when any outsider can see that he is not, one who instead blames the president of the U.S. for the shortcomings of his business, is not a man who is living in reality. Now i have no intention of simply bashing this man, whose misfortunes are pitiable and real. The reason that this topic merits discussion is because recently i have done almost exclusively the same thing. Lately i have been blaming my own lack of success at work on any scapegoat i could find. The guy next to me gets under my skin, so i cannot concentrate. The economy is bad, so i cannot produce sales. Our database is faulty. Our protection rules are inadequate. Our hiring process is detrimental to veterans. Ad nauseum. And thinking about this owner’s response today, and how nonsensical it is when the facts are examined, i came to realize how nonsensical my own excuses are as well.
It is not just work that brings this out in me. When i do not love my wife well, i nearly always say it is because i am tired or because she doesn’t understand what is on my mind, or, worst of all, because she didn’t love me well first. In fact any time i sin in any way, i can pin it on stress or culture or bad days. When i am rude, when i do not love others, when i am impatient, when i am cowardly: it is in these times i can accomplish a hundred tumbles on the mat of mental gymnastics, and by the time i am done even i start to believe that what i am saying is true.
But it is not.
It is hard for us to admit that perhaps of all the problems we face in the world and in our daily lives the biggest one is we ourselves. i have historically interpreted the Scripture about a plank in one’s eye as a reminder not to judge others for their sin, but i believe it also applies to scapegoating. This is most harmful of course when we blame someone near us who should be instead our “brother,” but i think it is nearly as bad when it applies to environments or climates or governments or entities too large and distant to be there to defend themselves. It is easy to blame these things partly because nearly everyone is in agreement with us, and partly because many people don’t see the harm in it. But it is easy, too, to forget that not only is a plank in our eye painful, it can also be debilitatingly blinding. We often cannot see the myriad of ways in which our own performance, our own adaptability, our own grace or patience or forgiveness could improve. And believe me, there is no shortage of ways in which i am deficient.
i blame the schools for that. 😉
Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye.
– Luke 6 : 41 – 42