Some time ago, I came across a quote that was attributed to Confucius, and it fits with this issue’s topic of investing in people and the importance of learning: “If your plan is for one year, plant rice. For ten years, plant trees. For a hundred years, educate people.”

A bit of further research showed that the Internet was mistaken, and the quote should actually have been credited to another Chinese philosopher named Guan Zhong. The exact translation is also slightly different, but the general meaning is the same, and I prefer the pithier version included above.

In the past 18 or so months, our world has lived through a pandemic, the scale of which is unprecedented in over 100 years. Millions of people lost their lives, and many more lost their livelihoods or endured enormous upheaval. Even for those of us who’ve been fortunate to escape the greatest disruptions, we’ve had a lot of time and opportunity to consider our lives and, perhaps, to refocus on what really matters.

In the case of parents, it has also been a time to reconnect more intimately with our children’s education and upbringing, as schools were closed once, twice, or even more times in many countries. I’ve had to brush up on such diverse topics as long division, the temperature on various bodies in the solar system, and Caesar’s fathering of an illegitimate son with Cleopatra. As the original quote alludes to, this has brought to life the importance of learning as a lifelong process and one that can continue to provide positive returns long after we’ve put our classroom years behind us.

While I think Guan Zhong’s quote contains a lot of truth, I think it falls short. There’s an even better investment to be made in people in every age. That’s the investment in people’s hearts and souls through listening to them, understanding them, comforting them, and—best of all—introducing them to Jesus, the One who can forgive their past, transform their present, brighten their future, and grant a future of eternal joy, fulfillment, and peace.