There is no love lost between me and banks.
I grew up in a house where they were reviled. (Young Tom lost more than $2,000 – a princely sum in 1929 – and never trusted banks again.) They took advantage of the mother and I when we purchased This D*mn House. They continue to prey on me today in the form of credit card APRs that consistently go higher though I usually pay more than what’s due and it’s paid on time.
So, while I don’t hate banks, they aren’t exactly in my top five industries. I think a lot of us feel that way these days. I couldn’t help but be touched though by the story of Leonard Abess Jr.
The Miami banker, lauded during President Obama’s Congressional address last night, reportedly gave a $60 million bonus to about 470 bank employees – past and present. In an age for an industry where corporate jets and $1.5-million office redos are the norm, what do you say about a guy like that? A guy who takes money he could easily have just walked away with, and gives it to his employees? You call him the exception, rather than the rule. If you’re me, you feel badly that he is painted with the same broad brush that vilifies so many of his colleagues these days, deservedly or not.
You also say “thank you” for putting more than a glimmer of hope back into humanity. The greed-mongers who have looted establishments and robbed blind the common man could learn a lot from this guy. Not that they’d ever listen. They don’t give a sh*t in the first place.
I’ll admit that it wasn’t a story I expected to hear. Especially not during a speech that immediately resonated with me when the economy was referred to as “the worry you wake up with and the source of sleepless nights.” Because the fact of the matter is that people are terrified.
I hear about it on the bus. I hear about it in the grocery store. I hear about it at work.
With each new announcement of lay-offs at whatever company it is, I think the country's entire workforce collectively cringes. We exhale the breath we were holding, simultaneously breathing a sigh of relief that “it wasn’t me.” Yet. And it's not that I live in mortal fear of losing my job. It's just that even thinking that it's possible is alarming.
Is it any wonder then that people are putting off buying homes or buying cars or anything else classified as "major?" Of course, that only makes the economy worse, but how can you blame them? That's money they may need in the not too distant future just to eat.
I know it's going to get worse before it really starts to get better. For me, that's the scariest part. I'm past ready to see the "better" get started. And I'm not a patient person.
For now though, I'll try to be encouraged by every bit of light I see. And today, that light is Leonard Abess.