Archive for January, 2013

The Wild Side of Gold

Gold BeachMy 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.

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A Purpose in Life

Our-prime-purpose-in-this-life-is-to-help-othersIt’s been an exciting 24 miles of salt filled air, but one can’t see the ocean from this stretch of the highway. In fact, one can’t see much at all because you’re busy watching all the traffic around you. It’s a beautiful section of highway, flanked by trees on both sides, but because it’s only a two-lane, one must be attentive to all those vehicles.

I find myself thinking “Where are they going?” I soon find that many are heading to Bullards Beach State Park near Bandon, Oregon; the same place I’m staying at. It sits inland enough to be protected from the strong ocean breezes, but it’s near the Coquille River, so many of those entering the park have boats.

I will be doing some crabbing, and I don’t mean complaining. Having never crabbed before, I was a bit hesitant to try, but I was told that it’s quite easy. They have a special dock where one can chat with others making it easy to pick up pointers from the pros.

I rented a yurt, a domed tent structured by a wood frame with a wood floor. It wasn’t exactly what I had expected. The yurts were quite close together, but it was clean and there was a bed so I was a happy camper.

I did a lot of hiking while staying at this park. I went to the historic Coquille River Lighthouse then ventured down the 4 ½ miles of open beach. The sand felt good squishing up between my toes. Having lived inland my entire life, I realize why so many people are drawn to our coastal states. The ocean is mesmerizing, and there are so many different things one can find along the beach. I was like a little kid seeing something for the first time.

My crabbing ended up being a bust, but I was fine with that. I had more fun watching the pros haul in those delectable crustaceans. It made me realize how diverse we all are especially when one ventures out of their comfort zone.

It also made me realize how important each individual is on this fine earth. There isn’t a one of us without a purpose. I know we all have days when we feel bogged down by the humdrum of our lives, but each task we do each day is of value to someone.

So I spent the rest of that day touring this area, and taking note of all the different tasks that were being performed by all the people I came in contact with. It was truly breath-taking, to see just how widespread God made all of us, yet we are all so very much alike; mind boggling to say the least. God is truly the master of all things.

And in my real world, I am coming off our busiest time of the year. It’s during this time that our number of donations and number of clients seen doubles, maybe even triples. And each person who works for Catholic Charities, each person who volunteers, each person needing assistance, each person who donates, plays a critical part in the success of Catholic Charities. There isn’t one job or one person that is more important than the other.

I remember, while living in Aspen, watching this mobile parts distributor pull up to a mechanics shop. I could only assume he was there to present to the mechanic the different products he had that could make the mechanic’s job easier. As I passed the truck, I heard a couple of young guys comment what a “loser job” that parts distributor had. I was appalled. I thought, “Just where do you think that mechanic gets the tools he needs to fix your cars?” And I must confess that when I was much younger, I would occasionally think that certain jobs were below me.

I’m so grateful that I’ve come to a point in my life where I know each of us has a purpose in life. Sometimes that purpose can be highly rewarding, and other times one is totally unaware of what their purpose in life has done for someone. I think those times are the most special to God because we are doing things just because, and not for any kind of recognition.

I see this time and time again here at Catholic Charities. We have so many great volunteers who come each week because they believe in what we do. And I hope they know that Catholic Charities couldn’t do what we do without them. Kudos to all of you who volunteer not only here, but all around the world. God is smiling down on you for your efforts.

And don’t forget to recognize your own purpose in life. It took me a while to realize that one of my purposes in life is to write. I ignored this for years, but have now embraced my writing skills. I have completed my first book, and am now working on the second in a series of books about this epic virtual bike trip I’m on. And as I wait for these books to be published, I’ll continue doing what I do for I know that each task I perform each day is a small piece in God’s perfect plan.

So in this fast pace of life we live in, take some time to appreciate the diversity of tasks being performed around you each day by a diverse group of people. Look for the value in each person to include yourself, and thank God for He is the master of all things. God bless and as always, let’s keep going the distance.

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