Opportunity and Choice

For some time, I have been looking at, reviewing, meditating on and trying to figure out the application of Leviticus 23.22 in my life:

“And when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, nor shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest.  You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the Lord your God.”

I have really struggled trying to determine what my “gleanings” are. And, in the wealth management and business transition areas that I have practiced for the last 13 years, I have not found any, especially as it relates to the verse described above: helping the poor.  So, as I have continued to determine what my gleanings are, I was given the opportunity to teach, play and use basketball in Haiti.  I have continued to push myself to determine the gleanings of my basketball harvest.

When my family and I moved to Haiti, I knew that it was going to be for much more than for me to simply play basketball and run basketball camps.  Even though I’m able to share my gleanings in the forms of camps and clinics in places such as Haiti, I’ve always believed that there was more that I could do.

Enter impact investing.  The are many things that make me excited about the work that can be done through impact investing.  Having experienced life in Haiti, on short-term trips and now in a long-term, living arrangement, I have seen that there is an opportunity both here in Haiti and in other 3rd- or developing-world countries to provide an opportunity for investors to get a return on their investment, while providing opportunities for local/indigenous people to find employment and take care of their families.

Here are the 3 applications of this scripture that I am focusing on:

1. A poor person (or sojourner) had to work for themselves in order to eat.

2. A poor person had the opportunity to use the gleanings to secure seeds, take to some other location and start their own field (business).  What I intend to do with impact investing is to create, support and encourage others to start other businesses from our gleanings.  The perfect example of this is Apple.  Apple comes out with the iPhone (as an aside, I believe the iPhone to be in the same category as the wheel and fire as some of the greatest inventions by human kind.  The other is the internet.)  From the iPhone “gleanings,” all kinds of businesses have come into being: companies that make cases for protection, companies that build applications (apps), and so on and so forth.  This is not only a hope for those looking to make an impact through investing, but it is a goal; an actual objective of what impact investors are trying to do.

3. Lastly, God didn’t tell the landowners (business owners) that they had to “care for the poor” or “give them anything” or “convert them” in this scripture.  He simply commanded that it was the responsibility of the business owner to leave gleanings to provide opportunities for the poor.

Whether I am starting with a new client or teaching a college course, one of the first things I discuss is “opportunity cost.”  Opportunity cost is giving up one thing in order to choose something else.  Or, the “cost” of a choice.  What separates the materially “rich” nations from the materially “poor” nations is that those people in the “poor nations” do not feel like that have a choice.  By providing gleanings, we will provide for these people choices: do they want to work to eat or do they want to build off of the gleanings.

So, at the most basic level, our job as impact investors and business owners is to provide  people with the opportunity to make a choice.

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