It’s an old joke you’ve probably heard before. A farmer named Joe sells a mule to another farmer named Bob for twenty dollars. After a while, Joe decides he wants the mule back. He offers thirty dollars to Bob and gets the mule. A few days later, Bob offers forty dollars to Joe for the same mule. They trade the mule back and forth for a few months selling the mule to each other, until the mule is now worth eighty dollars.
Bob now has the mule. Another farmer sees the mule, and wants it. He offers Bob a hundred dollars for the animal. Bob sells it to the farmer. Joe comes over to Bob’s farm and the sees the mule is gone. Joe is upset.
“Why did you go and sell the mule?” he angrily said. “Don’t you know we were making good money trading him back and forth?”
There are good trades, and there are bad trades. This is the trading season in the National Basketball Association. Stars, like Chris Paul and Paul George, were traded to new teams. Free agent players are trading themselves to new teams in return for lots of money. Lots of money. Former Duke star, J.J. Reddick, signed last weekend with the Philadelphia 76ers for over $23 million for just one year.
Immediately, the media basketball analysts are debating, “Was it a good trade, or a bad trade?” They may have facts and good reasons to back up their opinions. But the truth is, only in the future will it be determined if the trade was successful. A key player in the trade may tear up his knee and his career may be over. A young player, who seemed an unimportant part of a trade, may turn into a superstar. A trade made today may lead to a championship in a few years, or may lead to the bottom of the league.
There are mule traders and there are NBA General Manager traders. But there are other traders. As a matter of fact, we all are traders. If you go to a job Monday, you are trading your time and labor for a paycheck. If your purchase a TV with that paycheck, you are trading funds from that paycheck, with which you traded your time and labor, for that TV.
We all make trades every day, whether we realize it or not. They are probably not like million dollar NBA trades, or even like trading a hundred dollar mule. But the trades we make may have as much impact to us as trading for that all-star basketball player to a NBA team.
We trade some free time and labor in order to go back to school and get that degree. Or trade some of that free time and labor to get a second job to make some extra money to get out of debt. On the other hand, we might decide not to make those trades. Our free time and labor that we have right now is too valuable for us to trade. Just like the NBA, the future will judge whether our trades, or lack of trades, is successful.
In the NBA, the chance to win this year will make the team give up their future for an aging superstar. The team might win immediately, but it will pay the price with losses down the road. It can end up being a bad trade that may set the team back for years. If you have lived long enough, and I have, you know that you also have made some bad trades. Usually, it was the offer of immediate gratification that led to that bad trade. And that bad trade can also set us back for years.
After attending a funeral last weekend, I thought about trading in relation to drugs. As a matter of fact, isn’t it called the “drug trade?” People are trading their money, or someone else’s money, for drugs. The drugs offer immediate gratification, a high. But what about the future? The “drug trade” is a bad trade because they are trading not just money, but themselves and their future. It’s a stupid trade that can harm themselves, and those around them, for years, and possibly a lifetime.
Looking back, there are a few trades I made that I regret. But there are other trades I’m glad I made. Over forty years ago, I made the best trade I could ever make. I traded, well, me. It wasn’t much, but it was me. I traded myself for a life in Christ. And during those over forty years I have l learned that it was more than a good trade. It was a great trade. If you haven’t, maybe it’s time for you to make that trade. But remember, as they say on those car commercials, trading season won’t last forever.
Mac McPhail, raised in Sampson County, lives in Clinton and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.