My bike trip has taken me back to the edge of the ocean. It’s nice being able to see the waves crashing in over the rocks. It keeps my mind off the grueling 59 mile ride from Bandon, Oregon to Gold Beach, Oregon. The only thing my body wants to do is rest, but I know lying in bed will only intensify those aches.
After I get checked into my hotel, another Motel 6, gotta love the Motel 6, I decide a long, hot shower would do my body a bigger favor than a long nap. I’m amazed at how much this simple shower revived me. I was raring to go.
I head to the main shopping district of this fine town. Most people in this town seem to be very active and the businesses reflect this, as many businesses sell outdoor and athletic stuff. I find a few souvenir shops that I browsed through, and a couple of art galleries, but mostly it’s shops that don’t interest me much, that is until I see a sign in a storefront window that says “Clamming Supplies”.
I remember my failure at crabbing, but clamming had to be easier. I wasn’t sure what I would do with the clams if I found any since I was staying in a hotel, but it was something I had wanted to try. I went inside and inquired about how one went about clamming. I was given some great instructions, and was sold the minimal gear needed, a rake and a basket. After paying for my supplies and my day fishing license I headed outside.
The store owner was so kind, pointing me in the right direction for the best clamming. So there I was walking towards the miles of open beaches, hoping for a new adventure. I felt like I was walking on the wild side. Yes, I realize clamming isn’t much of a wild thing to do, but when you live inland all your life, digging in the sand to find delectable clams seemed a bit wild to me.
I reach the beach and discover only a few others walking on my “wild side”. Clamming in the middle of the week seemed to be the right time for finding a good spot; fewer people, lots more clams. I pick a spot and start digging around as instructed. I was told this method should provide me some nice little neck clams. It’s not long before I strike gold.
I continued digging until my basket held my quota. I looked at my gold mine and wondered, “Now what?” I look down the beach and see a middle-aged man and woman being a little more aggressive with their clamming. They were obviously after other kinds than the little necks because their gear was much different than mine.
I walked over to them and introduced myself. The woman smiled with delight as she said, “Ah, you’re the woman riding across the country on her bike. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
We babbled on, me telling them why I was on such a ride, and they talking about life in Gold Beach. I finally explained that I was staying in a hotel and wouldn’t really be able to fix the clams I had dug up. I told them the only reason I went clamming today was because I had wanted to experience what it was like to clam, but now I didn’t know what to do with them. Could I simply throw them back in the ocean? Did they want them? I didn’t want to kill the little critters because of some stupid act on my part of not knowing if they can survive being thrown back into the ocean after being dug up.
Well, the woman smiled and said they’d be happy to take them off my hands since they had not gotten any little necks that day. I handed over my basket and rake, and told them to keep it all because now that I had tried clamming, I didn’t need that stuff anymore. I explained I was done “walking on the wild side” of nature.
The woman started crying. I thought, “My God, what have I done?” I soon found out that this couple not only was living a bit on the wild side, but they were also living on the edge of poverty. Both of them had had decent, good paying jobs a few years ago, but when the economy took its downward turn both had been laid off. Unemployment ran out, good paying jobs still weren’t available so on their days off from work – she worked as a maid at a local hotel and he worked as a cashier at a local convenience store – they came down here hoping to get their quota of clams. She explained that if they were able to get enough food from the ocean, then they spent a lot less on groceries which allowed them the funds to pay their rent.
I could barely hold back my tears seeing this couple working so hard at trying to make ends meet, but I silently applauded them for not giving up, for taking what jobs were available, and finding a way to help make those ends meet. I said a quick prayer for them that God would reward them with a much bigger basket of gold. I thanked God for letting me walk a bit on the wild side, and for giving me the chance to turn my wild side day of clamming into gold for two of His people.
I returned to my hotel feeling pretty darn good. I not only experienced something I had never done before, but I was shown that a little hard work can be quite rewarding for those who try. That night I prayed for that couple again, and for all those living on that edge of poverty. Many of them don’t have the opportunities that this couple had in finding delectable foods like clams, but some aren’t as diligent either about finding work or ways to make ends meet as this couple was doing.
I felt myself starting to judge those who don’t try as hard, so I knew that it was time to simply thank God for all that He had given me, and to get some rest so that I could make my way to California. I was 39 miles away from the California border. Oregon has been a great state to me, and offered me so many opportunities to walk the wild side of life. Life was good.
And in my real world I think about all those clients we serve daily at the Marian House Soup Kitchen. Many are families like the one I depicted in my virtual life, hanging on by a thread. Sometimes the only way they keep from being homeless is to eat their one meal at the Soup Kitchen.
I remember serving a meal at the Soup Kitchen just a couple of months after I started working for Catholic Charities of Central Colorado. I was astounded by the number of families that came through the line. It was quite a shock to my “rose colored” mind. I went home that night and thanked God for the home I live in, the job I have, and my supportive and loving family.
And I thank God for all those who work and volunteer at the Marian House Soup Kitchen. You will never find them judging any of our dinner guests. All are treated with dignity and grace, and the only time a guest is treated differently is when they have disrespected the staff, volunteers, or other guests. Staff and volunteers make each meal feel as much like home as they can for our clients. It is a well-run machine serving over 600 meals a day.
So as you look for a little gold in your life, and if that gold happens to be found on the wild side of life, remember to thank God for all the blessings He’s bestowed on you. And as always, let’s keep going the distance.