I heard this quotation during one of the case studies we did at Harvard earlier this year:
People are assets when they are born into this world and they become liabilities. I want to keep making them assets.
This was said by a Bill Strickland, who is the founder and president of an amazing community development organization.
The key thing here is attitude. He really is a man with attitude! Nothing stops him from his passion for enabling people to find a way out of poverty, of many forms.
Behind all that is the way we look at people and the way they look at themselves. The two so often affect one another.
People are assets. That sounds like business talk, and may invite us to see them as something to be used.
But we can avoid that, with the attitude that assets are in fact gifts to us, from the preceding generations, and from the fortunes of life itself.
None of us made ourselves. We are gifts, to ourselves and to the universe. Every one of us is a gift and has something to contribute.
It is not difficult to think of how people 'become liabilities'. Much harder to think of how we avoid that.
Older people are very often so intent on not becoming 'a burden' on their families. But what does it mean when Strickland says that he wants to 'keep making them assets'? I found that a little worrying, maybe a little messianic in its intent.
I think it's more about helping people to keep being assets, through discovering their unique contribution and finding ways to value that, to be valued and to keep contributing.
These are broad brush strokes, but well worth holding onto: with attitude!