The news this week has been all about the crumbling economy, especially here in New York where so many people’s lives are directly affected by the woes of Wall Street.
The gym I go to in the morning has a number of investment bankers as members (there’s a couple of banking firms in the neighborhood). I have never seen people so shell-shocked, not since 9/11. Guys who are usually blasting through their workouts or bantering in the steam room sit glumly in front of their lockers, the Wall Street Journal at their feet, or grimly text on their Blackberries. I used to enjoy their wisecracks, their cocky self-confidence. Now they speak in low tones or not at all.
The worry and anxiety are palpable, even heartbreaking. There is a real sense of dread in the air. You can tell these people are not just worried about their jobs or their bonuses or their vacation homes; they’re worried about their families and their future, a worry we can all relate to.
This may sound strange, even a bit harsh, but I never imagined myself praying for investment bankers. Not those supremely self-assured “masters of the universe” who rake in the major bucks and enjoy a lifestyle completely out of reach for most Americans. Better to spend your prayers on the poor guy bumming change on the street corner or the mom trying to maneuver her kid’s stroller down the subway steps.
But I have to say I’ve had a change of heart. It’s humbling and unnerving to see the mighty brought low, a painful reminder of how vulnerable we all are, how interconnected our lives have become. Watching human beings struggle is hard and sometimes all you can do to help is pray. And pray we must, even for masters of the universe.
One of the guys at the gym had a T-shirt on the other day that said, “Fund Managers Are People Too.” He has a point: We all are. None of us is a master of the universe. There is only one of those. And it is to him we turn in times like these.
Edward Grinnan is Editor-in-Chief and Vice President of GUIDEPOSTS Publications.