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It was late in the fall. The pyracantha bush overgrowing everything outside my window had exploded into masses of bright red berries, and a screaming flock of birds attacked it wildly and joyfully, getting drunk on fermented berry juice.
The sun was bright and warm; it felt wonderful on my face. But I didn't have much time to enjoy the pleasures of a sunny day — I had to get to work and confront the problem.
It was with me the moment I woke; for months it had been a deep, aching presence in the pit of my stomach. It had been with me ever since I started my own business, and had been steadily growing and growing, until now I had to face it. I had to do something.
I went into my funky little office and went through the mail and — my God! — some bank had been reckless enough to send me yet another pre-approved credit card. I called the toll-free number and activated the card immediately, then jumped in my car and headed for the nearest bank to get the cash advance I needed to cover the rent, utilities, and — worst of all — all the other credit-card payments that were overdue.
That old familiar anxiety was even worse when I got back to the office. Now I was another $5,000 in debt. How was I going to make the payments?
I had no idea. I was tired. My work was slow and clumsy. It all felt like such a struggle.
Then Bernie called, in the earlyafternoon, as I was staring into space doing triage — trying to figure out who absolutely needed to be paid in order for my little business to survive for a week or two. Bernie quickly talked me into taking a walk with him behind his home. It had been quite a while since I'd seen him. The work could wait.
I drove out into the country. It had rained hard the night before, and leaves dazzled in the sun. I should do this more often, I thought. Just drive alone somewhere, anywhere, as long as it's out of the city. It helps quiet my restless mind in some way, and eases anxiety.
When I reached the driveway, an old man in a sweat suit ambled across the lawn to meet me. His white running shoes perfectly matched his slicked-back white hair.
"Bernie, you look pretty spiffy," I said. I'd usually seen him wearing a conservative brown old-man's suit—though with a tie-tack made of the biggest gold nugget I'd ever seen.
He chuckled and said, "Got some good walking shoes?"
He led me into his home. We had a glass of cold water, went out his back door, and crossed his big backyard. It led to a trail that wound into the hills through a grove of sweet-scented pines and lush ferns.
"We should get out and walk more," Bernie said to me over his shoulder. "Be more like Carl Sandburg. He said he needed to take long walks, so he could stop and sit on a rock and ask himself, Who am I? Where am I going?"
We walked on, out of the woods now and onto dry, golden grassy meadows that dipped down into cool areas shaded with oaks, madrone, and bay trees. We didn't talk for a long time. It was almost hot in the sun, that last autumn warmth you savor so much. It was cool in the shade, and I could feel winter coming on.
My thoughts wandered over many things as we walked along in silence. I thought of the meetings we'd had over the past year or so since I met Bernie. He was a remarkable old man, given to long periods of silence interspersed with little talks that were always worth thinking about.
I thought of the time he had told me about a Utopian novel he was writing, or at least thinking about writing, I wasn't sure which. I often thought about what he said that day, because his novel presented a blueprint for an entirely possible future.
He imagined that, in the not-too-distant future, some hugely successful corporation would set up and fund a nonprofit organization that becomes far more successful than the parent company, creating vast amounts of income from both donations and the great number of successful enterprises it launches. Its mission is to get more and more people and corporations worldwide to donate at least five to ten percent of their income to help people on every level of society — to feed, shelter, educate, and support anyone and everyone who needs assistance in creating better lives for themselves, and even in fulfilling their dreams.
Millions would be trained to teach people how to better their lives; millions would be trained and employed to do valuable service work for people and the environment.
The work of these people, combined with what governments and religious organizations and corporations and other groups can and should do, would be enough to change the world, and make poverty and hunger and even war a distant memory from a dark age.
It was a great, glorious vision of a world with a steadily increasing standard of living for everyone, propelled forward not by governments — though they were certainly part of the solution — but by the powerful principle of tithing applied by a large number of individuals and corporations worldwide.
Bernie said that one person's vision vould show us it has possible to improve the world, even transform the
Excerpted from THE TEN PERCENT SOLUTION by Marc Allen. Copyright © 2002 by Marc Allen. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.