The report came through on CNN a couple of years ago: Dan Price had it all. He was the CEO of a successful business with a million-dollar salary and a gorgeous home overlooking Puget Sound outside Seattle, Washington. But then he noticed two things: first, more money wasn’t making him any happier.
“There’s some number where, when you hit it, the money over that just doesn’t make your life much better,” he said. And secondly, his employees were struggling. Cost of living in Seattle is one of the highest in the nation. So, Dan did something unthinkable: in 2015, he cut his million-dollar salary down 90 percent in order to raise the minimum wage of his workers to $70,000.
The effect was immediate: More than 10 percent of employees have purcha percent of employees with debt have been able to pay some of it down. Other surprising things happened as well: The number of babies born to employees in the company increased from 0-1 per year to roughly 6-7 per year. “The worries of not being able to pay for something have disappeared,” wrote one employee when asked how the wage policy has affected their life. “I don’t have to make a choice between fuel or groceries. I don’t have to worry about an unexpected emergency.”
And what happened to his company? It grew from 120 employees to more than 200. They even opened a second location in Boise, Idaho and have been instituting the same minimum wage there as well.
Dan said, “I’m the same age as Mark Zuckerberg and I have dark moments where I think, ‘I want to be just as rich as Mark Zuckerberg and I want to compete with him to be on the Forbes list. And I want to be on the cover of Time magazine, making lots of money.’ All these greedy things are tempting. But my life is so much better.”
Since making the change, Price has seen some ups and downs, but for the most part is still on track with his goal of transforming the business world.
Now, please do not miss the point of my sharing this story. It is not an attempt to get others to do the same as Dan Price. It is not an attempt to raise the minimum wage to anything, much less to $70,000. I am not trying to cause a workers’ rebellion for higher wages or anything else.
My goal is simply this: As you and I face each day, may we also have the goal of transforming those around us, and in so doing, reflecting the glory of God in every way and everything we do or say.
I am not saying that we do not already do this or see others doing it as well, but I do believe we could do more. The author to the Hebrew Christians in the New Testament put it this way: “And do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased”(Hebrews 13:16). In many ways we see this happening all around us, from the efforts of groups like Samaritan’s Purse sending teams to Haiti, Afghanistan, Louisiana and other places in need around the world, to individual efforts right around the corner.
I was riding with a friend a while ago when we came to an intersection where there was a beleaguered fellow out on the curb with a sign asking for help. My friend was driving, but he immediately looked around the vehicle for something to be able to give to the fellow. He found a bottle of water and a package of peanut butter crackers, rolled down his window, greeted the fellow, and handed the water and crackers to the fellow saying, “I wish I had more to give you right now. God bless you!”
I work in an assisted living facility here in Florida. In this facility we see such care and compassion and transforming kindness on a regular basis. One of the workers needed to take extra time off to stay home with a sick child. Immediately and without any question, other staff workers picked up the needed shifts to allow this worker to care for her child.
On an even lighter note, the other day I ran into a resident here who was feeling down. It was her birthday and she was somewhat depressed. We were standing in the middle of the hallway right outside of the elevator in the building. I immediately looked around and commandeered one of the staff who was diligently busy cleaning nearby rooms, and invited him to come join me at the elevator. One of the dining room supervisors was passing by, so I asked her to join us as well. Right there in the middle of the hallway, in front of God and everybody else for that matter, we sang “Happy Birthday” (badly, I might add) to this lady, and her spirits soared through the roof right before our eyes.
In a word, we need to live our lives with others in mind, not primarily thinking about our own needs or our own selfish interests. I am convinced that the essence of Christ-likeness is others-centered living.
So the question is not how high will you raise somebody’s salary. The question is simply, “How will you transform someone else’s life today?”
Chuck Tabor is a religion columnist for The Times-Gazette and a former Hillsboro area pastor. He can be reached at [email protected].