During the 1920s a young man (we will call him Dale) purchased his father’s dairy farm in Allendale, Michigan, and started a business as a milkman. The early and long hours he dedicated to running the dairy provided a good living for himself and his family. But through no fault of his own, the market for milk changed. Grocery stores began to sell milk at a fraction of the lowest price that Dale could offer. The dairy quickly went bankrupt. Now middle-aged and unemployed, Dale felt like his life had reached a dead end. Not knowing what else to do, Dale began to meet with the pastor at his church.
Dale’s pastor proved to be not only empathetic but also wise. He recognized that working as a milkman for years inculcated Dale with extensive sales experience. The pastor prompted Dale to contact a real estate agent in their church. The real estate agent agreed to give Dale a chance, and Dale’s aptitude for salesmanship took over. He became much more successful as a real estate agent than he ever would have been if the dairy had remained solvent.
It went well for Dale, but the character in this story who impresses me is the pastor. Rather than feeding a resentment of the market based on its perceived unfairness, confusing business failure with moral failure, blaming Dale’s misfortune on capitalist supermarket owners, or convincing Dale that he deserved a handout from the government as compensation, this pastor reminded Dale of his creative potential and indicated opportunities that might have been otherwise overlooked. A wise pastor, indeed!
Through our programs at the Acton Institute, we work hard to prevent these sagacious pastors from becoming extinct. Your financial support makes our efforts possible. Thank you.
Rev. Robert A. Sirico