I was walking through the Atlanta airport, CNN blaring in the background, headlines screaming from the news stands stocked with magazines covered with glum faces, all the news is bad, bad, bad. You can't help but worry and wonder what the future will hold, what your retirement will be like, what will be left over when all the dust settles.

Then I saw her. She was about 8 years old and a darling little girl. She was with her mother and father and older brother. She was also on crutches. Her legs barely made a ripple in her little jeans, obviously withered and weak from some chromosome that came unraveled while she was being knitted in the womb. She was happy, and swung her legs in a strong rhythmic motion with her crutches to keep pace with her parents and brother. She was in every way a typical 8 year-old except for her withered extremities.

I thought that no matter where the stock market ends up, or how the economy falls or rises, she will still be crippled. She will grow up in a world where a pair of shorts will be a cause for people to stare. She'll feel left out as other kids run and play at school, and she will struggle to find a formal dress for the Homecoming dance that will accommodate her braced legs and crutches.

No matter if my 401(k) recovers or not, she will always — always — be crippled. Her parents may lose their job, I might lose mine, but she will never lose her infirmity. We may all weather this storm with nothing more than a few fallen limbs in the yard, but her limbs will never be whole.

It's too early to fold, and we're made of better stuff!
It made me a little angry that we have been focused on what we lost, not what we have. I remember Sam Walton, after the 1987 crash, when he said that even after watching Wal-Mart stock fall by a third, he still had the same number of shirts on the shelves as he did the day before. That is the kind of thinking, the kind of investing, and the kind of courage we need now. The losses are paper losses. The value is still there in the companies the stocks represent. If we will each keep our head in this mess, we'll work through this.

That really is what the little girl does. She marches through the airport like she had every right to be there, withered legs and all. No sympathy, no melancholy, just the spirit and spunk to deal with the hand she was dealt. We need to take a deep breath and get ready to play the game. It's too early to fold, and we're made of better stuff — the same kind of stuff of which that little girl is made.