I RECENTLY WOKE UP early to try and catch the peak of the Leonid meteor shower. Because the celestial event coincided with a full moon, the best time to view the meteors was at 5 a.m., just after moonset.
The estimates I read indicated that there were typically 11 to 17 meteors per hour during the peak. But there was no guarantee.
At 5 a.m., I got up and went to the front porch, which has a perfect eastern view of the night sky. It was cold but clear. After 15 minutes in the cold, I was considering packing it in and returning to a warm bed.
But I decided to hang in there a little longer. Shortly thereafter, my faith was rewarded when a brilliant streak appeared right in front of me. A little later, I saw another, albeit less bright streak, and later a few more.
Pretty soon, the first pastel glimpses of dawn appeared on the horizon. The Leonids were over for the night. They were replaced by the blues and pinks of a coastal sunrise.
As I sat in the cold and dark, waiting and hoping to see a meteor, a few lines from a favorite Bruce Springsteen song came to me:
This train, dreams will not be thwarted
This train, faith will be rewarded
I was raised to believe that faith would be rewarded. But I was also taught that “faith without works is dead.” This applies to so many areas of our lives.
On that morning, I had faith that the astronomers had correctly calculated the orbits of the earth, sun, moon and asteroid, so that my early rising would not be in vain. I had faith that the meteorologist’s prediction of clear skies would hold. I believed they had the knowledge and expertise to make sound predictions.
The extension of that metaphor to our financial lives is simple. We have faith that our combination of democracy and capitalism provides a financial system that we can all trust. In my 40-year investing lifetime, I’ve known war, volatility, economic chaos, natural disasters, and political and civil discord. But my faith in our system has allowed me—and many others—to participate and be rewarded.
Will that faith continue to be rewarded? I think the evidence is strong that it will, but not without the works mentioned above. What is the work that we can do that will continue our economic and financial growth? Here are some simple things I consider important:
In my experience, faith is often a conscious decision. I know people who have had deeply profound experiences that inform and inspire their faith. I’ve never had that type of experience. But I choose to struggle on, hopeful in the benefits of my beliefs, and acting where I can be rewarded.