The two brothers sat across from each other. A conference table between them. Neither looked the other in the eyes. All their lives, the brothers had disagreed as to the best way to achieve happiness. The older brother was a successful investor. He had worked hard all his life to get where he was today.
“Hard work will give you everything you want in life,” the older brother would say to anyone who would listen. “Look at me. I have a grand home, expensive cars, a beautiful wife, and accomplished children. My hard work has made all this possible.”
The younger brother, however, was a dreamer and an inventor. He worked at this or that, only long enough to make money to live on while he pursued his dreams. But his dreams had not netted him anything. He had no wife or children. He did not own his own home and the car he drove was barely street worthy. When he was not working on his numerous projects, he was hanging out with friends.
“You would think he was still in college,” said his older brother to anyone who would listen. “He has no ambition and will never amount to anything.”
The boy’s father was a wealthy man and philanthropist. He died six months earlier, leaving his fortune to his two sons. But there was a catch. In his will, he stipulated that the only way the brothers could collect the money was to agree on how to spend it. If they could not agree within six months, the money would go to a charity that the father had supported for many years. Today, the six months were up and the brothers had to decide.
The executor of the father’s estate was a long-time friend of the family who happened to be a lawyer. As he walked into the room, he saw the two brothers glaring at each other, Sadly, he thought back to the day when their father wrote his will. The friend had advised the father that he was making a big mistake. He had known the boys all his life and never once had they agreed on anything.
“Just split the money between the boys,” the friend said. “This will only drive a bigger wedge between them.”
The father was adamant that his sons should learn to get along.
“It is what I tried to teach them when I was alive,” said the father. “If they did not learn then, then maybe they will learn now that I am dead.”
The friend was not so sure. He shut the door behind him and sat at the head of the table. After a moment’s hesitation, he spoke.
“You understand the stipulations of your father’s will,” said the lawyer. His solemn look graced each boy. “You must make a decision today or you will not be able to keep the money.”
The oldest spoke first. “What my brother does not seem to understand is that this money could be invested in a new company I have found that will make us both millionaires. It will allow us to hire dedicated employees who will work hard to make sure our business is a success. In return, they will share in our good fortune, and my brother will have all the money he will ever need.”
The friend looked at the younger brother who seemed to be staring out the window. I wonder if he even heard what his brother said, he thought. But after a moment, the younger brother turned to his older brother and spoke.
“Brother, I love and respect you. I know you have worked hard all your life and you have much to show for your effort. But you do not have freedom. Your grand home is mortgaged to the hilt and your utilities and insurance add even more of burden to your budget. You may look grand driving in your fine car but does it take you any further mine? You have a beautiful wife but no time to enjoy her company because you work 14 hours a day, 7 days a week. How lonely she must be. Are you not concerned with what she does during the day when you are away? As for your children, my niece and nephew are the best, but you want them to be like you. Did you know your daughter wants to be a dancer and your son a musician? Yet you prevent them from engaging in the activities they love. Do you think you can force your life style on them and they not learn to hate you?
The older brother could not believe the gall of his younger brother. His face turned the color of an overripe tomato and his voice shrilled.
“How dare you criticize the life I chose to lead? Look at where your dreams have gotten you. Tell me, what do you have that I don’t?
“Happiness, dear brother, happiness”.
The old clock on the wall ticked the seconds away. The silence hung over the room thick as fog. The friend thought he should say something, anything, but before the words could pass his lips the older brother spoke.
“I know no other way,” he said. “What can I do to be happy?”
The younger reached over, touched his older brother’s hand, and held it tight.
“If you love something you must let it go. Then you will be happy.”
“What do you mean,” said the older brother.
“Father named a wonderful charity in his will. Let us give the money to the charity and let it do good work. Helping others will make you happy.
“There must be another way.” But the oldest knew the answer. His brother would never agree to invest it and if they did not make a decision soon, the money would go to the charity anyway. He felt trapped and the clock was ticking. As he sat there thinking, his cell phone rang. He noticed the caller was his wife.
“Hello, my dear,” he said.
The wife’s words were nothing more than a mumbled buzz to the others in the room but the expression on the older brother’s face faded as she spoke. He tried to break in with “but…” and “you can’t be serious,” with an occasional “why,” but his wife was doing all the talking. He muttered the words, “I understand” and hung up.
“I will do whatever you ask,” the older said unexpectedly. “Where do I sign?”
The perplexed lawyer laid the papers in front of him and handed him a pen.
“Brother, what caused you to change your mind?”
“My wife says she is filing for divorce. You were right. She has found something to occupy herself while I am away. Or someone, I should say. Someone who has time for her. I may not be able to win her back, but I have to try. I need time. So I agree. Give the money to charity. I need to save my marriage.
And with that, both brothers, for the first time in their life, agreed.