Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Gold Fever with Heart

   I’ve always looked at Labor Day as a time to celebrate hard work and American ingenuity. There were times in our nation that the worker was taken advantage of or even used and abused. This modern day holiday is a time to acknowledge that folks spend their lives in this country working hard to improve their lifestyle and provide for their families. Sometimes just to survive.
   In our nation, there are many ways to make a living. Options are unending if you’re willing to work at it.
   I met a couple of men over the holiday weekend that are really living up to that American Dream. But beyond that, their kindness, generosity and giving spirits struck me to write about them.
   My sister was here visiting for a couple of days from Minnesota. We were driving her around the mountains near us sightseeing and also looking for a specific spot in a mountain stream. A spot with black sand.
   My adult nephew is back in Minnesota with his own struggle to survive kidney disease. His life is full of health issues and days upon days of dialysis. He has a lot of down time and developed an interest in learning about gold panning and mining. He watches a lot of shows about it now that the Discovery Channel has numerous programs about this challenging occupation. His request of his mom on her trip was to bring him some black sand to practice panning with. So we were on a mission.
   In one particular canyon over the last hundred years, a lot of gold had been found in the cold mountain creek. We drove along looking down at the water hoping to find a calmer spot where sand could have collected. And maybe even some gold. We forgot to bring a bucket, but I did have a plastic potato chip container. I emptied the contents into a bag, wiped it out and had it all ready to fill with gold laden sand.
   We spotted a couple of pickup trucks parked on the pull-off next to the creek. The back ends loaded up with what we guessed was gold extracting equipment. They had just made their way up the rather steep bank as the sun was setting behind the hills. I parked behind them, walked up to one and asked if this was a public area for gold panning. I’m sure they got a good chuckle thinking this crazy woman didn’t even have grubby clothes on and she wants to pan?
   They said it was for anyone with questioning glances at me. Undaunted, I pressed on to explain briefly about my nephew and that he can’t really travel to do this sort of thing and we hoped to just send some creek bed back with his mom so he could try panning.
   The one man got a spark of a look on his face, held up a finger and said, “Hold on a minute. I have something you can take to him.”
   This was getting odder.
   He went to the passenger side of his white pick-up that was plastered with bumper stickers about America and God. That’s a good sign. He dug around tossing stuff up out of his way muttering, “Where did I put that?” I stood next to the truck wondering what this was all about and have I met a nutcase?
   My sister walked up and with a look that asked if I was crazy she said quietly, “What are you doing?”
   I shrugged. I had no idea what I was doing or what I was waiting for.
   His head popped back out of the cab with the exclamation of, “Here it is.” He held a small plastic zip locked bag out to me and said, “This was given to me and guaranteed to have gold in it. Give this to your nephew.”
   It looked like a bunch of sand to me. Somewhere within and out of sight could hold flecks of gold and this man was handing it over.
   What??!! Why would this man give this to us? He went on to explain that he was given it and he wanted to pass it on. I was dumbstruck by the generous gift. Obviously no nuggets were within the bag, but who knows how much gold dust there could be.
   The other man had joined us by this point along with my husband who had been walking up behind my sister. We chatted about their learning curve several years ago when they began the adventure of searching for gold. They didn’t share how much money they make doing this ingenious and undependable method of income, but by the looks of their equipment, they must be making some. They showed us their sluicing method that separates the first stage of the process and the fine sand that was left over. One of their buckets held that product along with some strange magnetic something or ‘nother.
   The next shocking bit of generosity was when the second man said, “Open up your container.” He began to scoop out the processed sand out of their bucket and transferred it into ours. Then he said, “Give this to your nephew and tell him it’s been through the first sifting. He should pan it and he’ll find gold.”
   This was so surprising that they’d turn over their processed dirt. That took some work. Granted the best stuff was still in that magnetic thing, but still. They didn’t have to do that. We were willing to go down to the bank and just scoop up some sand and see what he could get out of it.
   This happenstance visit in a Colorado canyon as twilight approached really reaffirmed in me that there are still some really good people out there. Hard working, generous people.  
   Gold fever over the centuries has turned a lot of good folks into greedy people, but we happened upon a couple of really kind hearted men that work hard to add a little extra into their pockets. Men that wanted to share the prospect of gold with a young man they’ll never meet, but a man that shares their interest. One that isn’t able to get out there working the sand. They are providing just a little bit of blessing. I hope they know it.
   We were all pretty speechless but so enjoyed talking with them and hearing what they went through to learn the work, to succeed in the work. Isn’t that the American Dream after all? Work, learn the job and do it well.
   I came across this verse in 1 Timothy starting in verse 17 and it made me think of these two modern day gold prospectors, “Instruct those who are rich (not that they’re rich, but they are after riches) in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy.
 Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed.
   I believe God set that meeting up, I believe that he put it on their hearts to share what God had provided for them in that creek, and I believe that their hearts are good and generous. They just stored something up that can’t be found here on earth.
   Matthew 6:20 “But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal.”

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