04/21/2014 01:24 pm ET Updated Jun 21, 2014

Psychic Income

Hugh H. Jones, Jr. has spent a lifetime in the banking business, first with Chemical Bank then with Barnett Banks, where he rose to the position of chairman and CEO of the Barnett Bank of Jacksonville.

A year after Hugh was named chairman; the son of a friend underwent unsuccessful heart surgery and died. Looking for a way to help channel his friend's grief and to draw something positive out this negative experience, Hugh began investigating the possibility of establishing a memorial heart program that would benefit other kids in need. When he learned there was no need for such a program in the United States, his thoughts turned to Korea. A veteran of the Korean War, Hugh knew there were thousands of children in Korea who needed heart surgery.

"The first children we helped arrived on a Friday in March 1985," Hugh remembers. "Two children came in together -- a 7-year-old boy and a 6-year-old girl, named Young Joo Yoo. I still have vivid memories of carrying the little girl off the plane, getting the children in the car, and bringing them home."

Hugh did not speak Korean and had no idea how he would communicate with these kids, but he was told not to worry. Sure enough, with a combination of drawing pictures and pointing, Hugh and his wife were able to settle the children in and make them comfortable.

The next evening, Hugh took Yoo to University Hospital to prepare for surgery Monday morning. He stayed with her until she was asleep that night. He returned the next afternoon only to find himself growing increasingly concerned as the surgery approached.

He went home and tried to sleep, but could not. Finally at about 4 a.m., unable to stand it anymore, he got in his car and went to the hospital to be with the little girl.

"As the nurses came to take her to the operating room, I saw tears in her eyes for the first time," Hugh recalls. "That's when I think a miracle happened."

The girl turned around and lifted her arms up to Hugh as though she thought he would be able to get her through that surgery. By the time he picked her up, there were tears in his eyes, as well, and when he tried to put her down on a mobile stretcher, he found he could not. Instead, he carried her to the operating room, hugging her tightly all the way.

"Those three or four minutes changed my life," Hugh says. "I was working hard and concerned about doing well for the bank, our clients, and myself. I measured progress by the investments I made and the income we received. But that little girl changed me, though to this day she doesn't see how. Now what's important to me is "psychic income" -- the feeling I get when I know I can make a difference in someone's life."

The word "psyche" comes from the ancient Greek. It is the word they used to describe the thing we call the soul. Hugh uses the word in the same sense. When he speaks of "physic income," he means the return on investments that feed the soul.

In the truest sense, we all invest our lives on a daily basis. Our capital is measured in seconds, minutes, hours, days, and years. Each of us is given a finite number to invest for a limited period of time. The fact that the number is not disclosed tells us to invest wisely.

Every choice we make, everything we do is an investment. We can invest in a relationship or in the pursuit of power. We can invest our time in accumulating wealth or in accumulating friends. We can invest in ourselves or in others. We can invest in our own comfort or in our children's future.

Spiritual investments pay the greatest dividends. If you ask Hugh, he will tell you he can't begin to calculate the return on the small investment he made in a little girl's life.