01-04-2009 - Traces, n. 4

A Small Price to Pay
Once a successful businessman, today almost overwhelmed with financial problems. That “almost” is the space for a discovery that enables a new start

For the past 11 years, I have owned and co-owned a business specializing in custom cabinetry for the residential and commercial remodeling industry. It has always been a challenge with varying degrees of success. The past 6 months, though, have brought challenges never before faced. Eighteen months ago, the company was comprised of 2 partners and 10 employees. Faced with the recent housing crisis, I will soon be left with just one employee and myself. We have had to dramatically restructure the company. This housing crisis has brought our company to its knees. For sure this has been in part due to the fact that we were unable to build a company solid enough to withstand a crisis like the one we are facing now, but that is irrelevant at this point. This is where we find ourselves now. And what we do now to go forward (reality) is much more interesting than what we could have done in the past. The temptation to see all of this as a personal failure became almost overwhelming. With a family that depends on me and friends that accompany me, I was never allowed to spend more than a few moments with these thoughts. The family budget began to suffer severely and quickly.  With the help of a very dear friend, I was able to place this entire situation in the hands of Another. But how do you do that? I mean, we are talking about practical things like food on the table and bills to pay! One evening, meeting with the friends of my fraternity, sat down and told them everything that was burdening me.  To simply recognize  in front of a few good friends that I am unable to financially care for my family–if Another is not present–would be a desperate situation. They have stepped in to make it possible for me to provide for the family in this period of economic crisis. Through this situation, Christ is present. He has become as concrete as a package of hamburger meat dropped off by a friend returning from shopping! The more I felt this dependence on Another, the easier it has been to ask. When I see a friend or acquaintance I’m much freer to say, “Well, things have been pretty tough at work recently and, by the way, if you know of anyone who might need some work done, please give them my card.” This way of being in touch with friends has allowed me to sign two contracts in the last three months that would have otherwise not existed! About 2 weeks ago, this all came to a head for me: the pressure of work, struggling to get the business restructured, the concern for the family, and the drive to get myself back into a position of being able to provide for them. I felt powerless. I was almost blocked by impotence. In life, I have faced many challenges and always have been able to “solve” them. I was able to “solve” moving my family from Italy to America 11 years ago. I was able to “solve” the problem when our business burned to the ground 4 years ago. But the sum of these problems was just too much. I felt that I wasn’t going to be able to resolve all of these challenges that I am facing. I don’t ever remember having woken up like this before in my entire life! I went to Mass and was sitting there in the pew. I simply was given the gift to recognize that I am powerless! I am impotent. But He is! It became crystal clear to me that my life is not to be a successful businessman, a loving husband, or a good father, but to know Him! Only through the experience of Christ present do I have any hope of being a successful businessman, a loving husband, or a good father. I am still fully immersed in the very same struggles, but with a freedom that is out of this world. The entire international financial crisis, the housing bubble, 4,000,000 jobs lost in America, the collapse of Lehman Brothers, etc…. all happened so that I may come to know Christ this way! Small price to pay, I’d say.
Barry Stohlman, DC (USA)