ABELLO: Here’s my kiss goodbye

 

 

Oscar Abello

Sometimes I walk alone into St. Thomas of Villanova Church, first thing in the morning. At that time of day, there is only the sunrise streaming through the windows. After signing myself with holy water, I walk up the center aisle and stop a few steps before the altar platform. I get on my knees, and I breathe. I breathe out all that distracts me, and I breathe in all that makes me smile. Sometimes it takes multiple breaths. Then I bow down and kiss the floor.

It helps with the breathing to think about the Book of Job. It is a profound testament to the idea that what matters most is maintaining a relationship with God at all times. We can be confused about God. We can be frustrated with God. We can be angry with God. As long as we do not turn our backs, there is hope.

I like to study how hope has the power to change the world, how hope infects people and how their actions change accordingly. Hope is an economic force. It is the relative value we place on the future versus the present, or, in the words of Benjamin Franklin, a penny saved is a penny earned – though Ben’s world had not yet fully grasped the wonders of compound interest.

Compound interest is the economic translation of hope. When recession looms as it does today, people grow fearful that they may lose jobs or other sources of income. They get pessimistic. They lose hope. The Federal Reserve Board slashes interest rates in order to re-spark growth, and in doing so, rates reflect the economy’s lack of hope.

In rosier times, the Fed ponders how much to raise interest rates. Its main concern is that the faster the economy grows, the greater risk of accelerated inflation. Raising interest rates discourages consumption and encourages saving. More pennies for tomorrow; less spent today. We are feeling hopeful about the economy, so we place more value on tomorrow. Hope does not flourish because interest rates are up, but when interest rates are up, hope is flourishing.

It is a remarkable indication of the economy’s built-in humanity. Often that humanity is hard to find. Accusations of corporate greed, worker exploitation and putting profits over people grapple with retorts saying freer markets make freer people, government cannot solve problems because it is the problem, and give me liberty or give me death.

In dusty clouds of conflict, many forget they are talking about complex human beings, not insatiably greedy CEO robots or perfectly informed self-centered automatons. Human beings are many-sided creatures. Sometimes we’re greedy. Sometimes we’re self-centered. Sometimes we’re not.

The fastest growing segments of today’s economy exist in the non-profit sector, especially non-profit hospitals and other residential services. According to a report by the Johns Hopkins University Center for Civil Society Studies, between 2002 and 2004, as overall employment decreased by 0.2 percent, non-profit employment increased by 5.3 percent. Today, non-profit employment growth continues to outpace for-profit employment growth.

This shift of resources reflects an awakening to the oft-forgotten human side that made Adam Smith famous in the first place – the altruistic side about which he wrote his very first bestseller, “The Theory of Moral Sentiments.”

It is this side of humanity that feels compelled to act for the benefit of another not because we put others before ourselves but because we see something of ourselves in the other – from corporate CEOs to the poorest child in Africa.

It is this side of humanity that considers anyone’s suffering to be everyone’s suffering and anyone’s joy is everyone’s joy.

It is this side that leads me repeatedly into St. Thomas of Villanova Church first thing in the morning with the sunrise streaming through the windows, hopeful-hearted to press my lips firmly against the floor.

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Oscar Abello is a senior economics major from Philadelphia, Pa. He can be reached at [email protected]