04/05/2009 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

More Connected Than We Think

Last Friday, I met a vice president for the insurance giant AIG. While I try to be a gracious person, senior management for a giant corporation highly culpable for our current crisis and currently eating up billions in public funds wasn't my top choice for grace that day.

She was worried and convinced that on Monday she would be out of a job. For 20 years, she explained to me, she had worked hard and with meticulous care watched and monitored the investments in the portfolio she managed. Sometimes it bothered her that others were posting higher profits more quickly, but she stuck to her strategy and most years was successful. And now, her retirement savings were almost gone. All the stock she owned of her company that just 18 months ago was worth over $70 a share is now under 50 cents a share.

With AIG back in the headlines this week, the purpose of this post is not to argue for or against continued bailout money, or whether it's in the form of purchasing preferred stock or buying up bad assets. What struck me during this conversation is that by her own description, she had done exactly what she was supposed to do. She had evaluated businesses and invested capital into the places where she thought it could be best used. As a result, her portfolio experienced slow and steady growth. Unlike many of her colleagues, she was not obsessed with quarterly profits, gambling with other people's money or leveraging at unbelievable rates to turn quick profits, but she now was in the same boat as those who did.

In today's global economy, we are connected more than we realize. Our own well-being is connected to the well-being of others across the globe that we do not know and will probably never meet. In the same way, our own irresponsibility affects much more than just ourselves. I obey the speed limit (most of the time) not just for the safety of my family, but for the safety of all those with whom I share the road. Police officers enforce the limit not just for my safety, but for the safety of all those on the road.

While we evaluate our own response, our local churches' response, and our government's response to this economic crisis -- we must remember that we are more connected than we think.

Jim Wallis is the author of The Great Awakening, Editor-in-Chief of Sojourners and blogs at

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