The Long Run

Posted on September 26, 2021


The “long run” can be considered both literally and figuratively. It has a big place in our nation, both as a people collectively and for us as individuals. How we integrate the “long run” into our lives has an impact on our world, how it’s organized, how it operates, how it is both good and bad.

Most of us don’t live in the long run. We are a short run people. We live for the day, for the moment, for the newest video movie or game to entertain us. For me it can be the next time I try to smash the tennis ball with real topspin that will zoom by my instructor Paul. That’s not likely to happen since he has an extendable tennis racket that can go out fifteen or twenty feet and return any loopy shot I hit, but it’s my short-term goal.

You all have short term goals. For Louise my wife it may be one afternoon baking the perfect pie as she works away in the kitchen in a seeming chaos of pots, pans, spoons, boxes of powders and the what not of the chef in her kitchen, or it can be making the perfect video on Christian living, trusting the Lord always to guide her, in her bible study videos we show on YouTube, etc.

Louise’s example somewhat bridges the short run, and the long run in our lives. The short run is making her pie; the long run is making her video, on something like faith, salvation, the Holy Spirit in our lives, etc., to be shown later on social media. The pie will disappear in the short term. The video on the Rapture, for example, has been widely viewed and may indeed plant the seeds of Scriptural truth in a listener for the long run. Is there anything longer than what happens to us after death?

When not indulging my new career as “videographer,” (both short and long term. I’ve been transcribing the notes I took of my father’s experiences as a chemist and manager of a sugar estate, or hacienda, in Peru for W. R. Grace & Co. in the early 1930s. He too had a short- and long-term challenge. His very life was at stake. That may be described as a short-term problem. But he needed a long-term solution.

Read my Memoirs, volume 1, for the full story, but, in short, he was managing a sugar estate called Cartavio located in the north of Peru in the Chicama Valley when a revolution erupted in Peru. Thousands of the workers on the sugar estate rose in rebellion against the owners and guess who “represented” the owners at the estate? About five or six “gringos,” or Americans and a small number of European staff like accountants, etc. were swarmed in a sea of thousands of cholos and Indians, “cholos” being a kind of loose term assigned in Peru to either Indians who had come from the Andes mountains to work, or those already on the coasts, somewhat integrated into what passed for modern Peruvian society.

About two thousand workers demanded that my father meet their demands and had him cornered in front of the office building. What to do? Several regiments of government troops were in the area, but over at Trujillo, the capital of the province. He had one American friend with him, Gene Sims also of Central, S.C. where my dad was from, who started to pull out his pistol while still in their old Ford.

“Put that away! You crazy Gene? They see that and we’re both dead!”

Sims struggled to get it back in his pocket as my father engaged the mob.

“Stop pushing and shouting! Let’s talk,” he started to work with them. They respected him for he seemed like an honest gringo manager who showed a knowledge of their needs. And they slowly moved to another office building, the mob and the two gringos, all the time talking. That was the short-term, or short run, solution. Save your life.

Then they continued the talking, or negotiating or whatever you want to call it, and moved to a long term or long run solution. It was the middle of the Depression, and most were one step away from starvation, already in poverty, and had little hope of improving their lot. On the other hand, the gringo manager talked and listened to us, unlike the soldiers and Peruvian aristocrats who plagued and destroyed us.

So, my dad got them settled, in spite of a revolutionary spirit that was sweeping Peru into near economic ruin and political chaos, and the long run was recognized by my father—a very good manager of men—at least as important as the short-term goal of not getting killed!

Later on, my dad and his boss at W. R. Grace & Co., Guy Lipscomb, from Demopolis, developed a process to make cardboard and paper from bagasse, the residue left over after the sugar making process was finished. They had a paper machine imported from Germany in 1938 to the desert coast of Peru at a sugar plantation named Paramonga and by 1942 it was in production, the first commercial paper making enterprise in the world using bagasse as the raw material, and for the next half century Paramonga soared in size and profits, helping modernize the Peruvian economy. Long run success.

So, what are your short term and long-term goals? Maybe, like for many of us like my father on the northern coast sugar plantation in 1932, they popped up on his radar and he had to solve them.

My sense is that most folks don’t have a plan for the “long run.” But you need one, even if it changes over time and you adapt to new circumstances. And let me ask you two simple questions to help you get a fix on “where you are” in relation to short and long-term plans.

How do you spend your money? How do you spend your time? Answer these two honestly and you can get a reality check on what you value and esteem in your life, and how perhaps you can develop a plan for the “long run” which is line with what you think is truly important. And that question can be answered by considering what you can do for others as opposed as simply what you can do for yourself. End sermonette.

Published as “Short-run people must learn to live with long-run world,” in The Tuscaloosa News, Sunday, September 26 2021

Posted in: Life in America