What to Do When the Stock Market Tumbles

By   Arleen  Lorrance

 I watched daily as our “paper” assets dropped steadily over the period of a month to the tune of thousands of dollars. “Oh well,” I thought, “it is only numbers because I haven’t taken it out as tangible funds. And anyway, it will either come back or it won’t. That is the nature of investing in the stock market.”

I have come to the place, if you can believe it, of laughing at such things and shrugging them off. I can do this because I have built a sufficient reserve (I hope) to withstand the ups and downs of the fury of buying and selling by the greater powers that be. I could see that ver76 y wealthy people don’t worry about such things at all because of how large their reserve is and how well diversified they are.

I came from a background where money was always a big issue. Money, no matter what the season or the great heat of summer, was always wrapped in a heavy overcoat and buttoned up to the neck lest any of it disappear. My parents suffered the depression, long into the remainder of their lives.

I was taught (and learned) to save, to purchase only what I could afford to pay for immediately, and to keep my desire for “things” within reason. Today I can delight in the fact that I have no debt whatsoever and I have done a good job of providing for my needs.

The Joy of Giving

Besides being amused when the stock market roller coaster begins to rapidly undulate, I found another way to meet the situation: Give money away. My parents would faint if they were still alive because they could never have conceived of this as a possibility. In fact, they never taught me anything about making donations or tithing, or even being generous.

Thankfully, for the last 43 years I have been under the wonderful influence of Mariamne who knew about such things from the time she was tiny and carried a small fist full of change to church on Sunday to put in the basket. Since we have come together in our splendid union I have been receiving a fabulous education in the art of giving.

Back to what to do when the stock market tumbles. As I sat at my desk I was amazed at the staggering losses. I took a breath and began opening my mail. There in front of me was a brochure from Heifer International. I had made modest donations to them over the years because I appreciated their wonderful work. They provide extremely poor families around the world with help in the form of farm animals, among other things. For example, a water buffalo to make farming much easier than doing it by hand, or goats to give milk for cheese, or chickens to provide eggs and more chickens, or a heifer to produce milk for the whole family and even produce a calf every year which could benefit the whole community. Each gift is costly but the Foundation provides you with the opportunity to join with others in the gift by purchasing a share ($25 or $50 dollars, for example) until the total is reached and the gift can be presented.

As I looked at the brochure, I saw that the total cost of providing the water buffalo was $250. I thought, “Wow. That would be a big gift for me to give.” Then, in my vast travel memory (over 76 countries, some several times), I was transported to a field in India where a young boy in marginal clothing and carrying a thin stick taller than he, stood beside the family prize possession, a water buffalo. (In India they pronounce this boo-fallow.) The boy’s boofallow was enormous beside his small frame. His face was filled with pride, not just because the family owned (or maybe even shared) this incredible animal but because he was entrusted with its care.

The image of the boy and his animal has lived in my consciousness for decades. As it reentered my awareness, I reflected on how much I had in my life and how easy my existence is compared to that of the small boy, his family, and their meager living quarters. I was immediately moved to make a donation of $250 to Heifer International to provide this necessary “God-send” to an impoverished family somewhere in the world.

My mind tried to jump in and caution me. “Hey, you just lost a lot of money in the market. Are you sure this is the time to make such a significant contribution?” I hesitated for a second, but this was something I really wanted to do. I took another few breaths and flipped through the brochure one more time. I noticed that a heifer cost $500 and I knew deep in my bones what that would mean to a family’s health and well-being.

What should I do? Should I give the water buffalo even though my mind was scrambling with objections or should I go to an even greater gift and spend $500 for the nourishment and benefit of a family that could never even dream of the life I am living?

Give More, Not Less

By now my mind had given up on me. It was beside itself with my thoughts of extravagance. It was so distraught it left the room. Now I was left with my heart. I could feel a welling up in me, so much so that I began to tremble. Suddenly I saw what I could do. I could give both, the water buffalo and the heifer. I could donate $750 to the Heifer Foundation and bring joy to two families in need. This could be my triumphant response to those who drag the stock market up and down and leave me reeling. I could give a substantial amount of money away that would mean a million times more than the paper losses I had seen in my account.

My hand trembled as I called Heifer; my heart was thundering and my eyes filled with joyful tears. I remained in that state for many hours. I had learned something very important: When the market tumbles, dip into what remains and do something meaningful and important with those dollars. When the stock market tumbles, give money away. When the stock market tumbles do something holy with some of the resources that remain. I can’t tell you what a thrill it was to know that I was helping to better lives and give others hope.