A Valentine’s Day Card

Today’s missive is a departure from my usual blog. I was trying yesterday to come up with something special for Valentine’s Day. I thought about reviewing stocks that would be appropriate to the message such as flowers, candy, and restaurants, but it just wasn’t working. So, I’ve decided to tell you a true story on the theme of “does money equal happiness?”

It was about a year ago when I met Mark. He was seeking investment advice and asked for my counseling. We had spoken a few times on the phone but never face to face. We agreed to meet at a restaurant to discuss his financial needs. I asked him what he looked like so I could identify him and he said not to worry; he’d be the only one walking with a cane.

I arrived first at the restaurant which was the nicest place I could think of that was equidistant from both of us. Sitting at a table, I was approached by an attractive man in his mid-40s walking with a cane. It was Mark, and he didn’t look very happy. He said that he was caught in traffic and that he hoped the valets would accord his brand new $150,000 Mercedes with the respect and care he felt it deserved. He took in the surroundings with a look of disdain and asked me if this was the only place I could come up with? Needless to say, the evening wasn’t off to a strong start.

We got to talking and he told me his life story, including the reason for the cane. Years ago when the internet was still in its infancy, he started an online service in an area where there wasn’t yet a presence. The company did so well that it was eventally bought out for many millions of dollars, most of which went into Mark’s pocket. Hurrah for him! I love a good rags-to-riches story. So, with the proceeds, he bought a big house in an exclusive area, purchased a couple of fancy foreign cars, traveled, partied, and basically did what most people usually do who suddenly find themselves with more money than they know what to do with. Not only did his bank account explode but, from what I was able to infer, so did his ego, and I don’t think he had a small one to begin with.

Well, one day he was on the beach playing volleyball when, going up for a slam, he was accidentally hit from behind by another big guy. He crashed to the ground and literally broke his neck. The entire left side of his body was paralyzed. It was a miracle he didn’t die but instead of being grateful, he was angry, and bitterness started to grow within him like a malignant cancer.

The life that he knew was suddenly gone and he wanted it back, dammit! He still had a ton of dough and used some of it to fund stem-cell research for the sole motive of curing himself. I applauded his action saying that if the research worked, it had the potential of possibly curing many other people with similar conditions. He snapped back saying that he didn’t care about other people–he was only interested in curing himself. I was stunned. Here was God sending him a message: Learn from your selfish ways and do something to help others. But the lesson was lost on him. His heart was closed.

A few months later he called me from his brokers’ office saying that although his portfolio was doing very well, he still wasn’t making enough money–can you believe it?! He called again a month later to tell me that he put in a bid for an expensive new experimental car and that he had just moved into a larger, five-bedroom house. (I don’t know what one person needs with a five-bedroom house.) He’s still pouring money into his stem-cell research and is upset that they haven’t as yet found a cure for his paralysis, more angry and bitter than ever.

Thankfully for me, we finally parted company, but not in a good way. Apparently I wasn’t giving him the ego strokes he felt he deserved and he told me never to contact him again, not that I had ever initiated contact with him in the first place. His egotism and bitterness were a drain on my energy, and I was glad to have him out of my life.

Mark reminds me of the king in The Little Prince whose petty need for power and domination drove everyone away and is ultimately left to rule over a kingdom of one. Alone and friendless.

The message for this Valentine’s Day is a simple one: It’s not the amount of money you have in the bank, but the love you have in your heart that truly counts. Or as Suze Orman so succinctly puts it, “People first, then money.” I truly hope that Mark will wake-up and open his heart so that God won’t have to send him another, more terrible message.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Posted by Dr. Kris at 11:25am PST

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