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The Merchant and the Prospector – A Happiness Parable

     I once heard a story from the 1849 Gold Rush that teaches an important lesson about our search for happiness:

“Oftentimes we are like the young merchant from Boston, who in 1849, as the story goes, was caught up in the fervor of the California gold rush. He sold all of his possessions to seek his fortune in the California rivers, which he was told were filled with gold nuggets so big that one could hardly carry them. Day after endless day, the young man dipped his pan into the river and came up empty. His only reward was a growing pile of rocks.

Discouraged and broke, he was ready to quit until one day an old, experienced prospector said to him, “That’s quite a pile of rocks you are getting there, my boy.” The young man replied, “There’s no gold here. I’m going back home.” Walking over to the pile of rocks,

the old prospector said, “Oh, there is gold all right. You just have to know where to find it.” He picked two rocks up in his hands and crashed them together. One of the rocks split open, revealing several flecks of gold sparkling in the sunlight. Noticing a bulging leather pouch fastened to the prospector’s waist, the young man said, “I’m looking for nuggets like the ones in your pouch, not just tiny flecks.”

The old prospector extended his pouch toward the young man, who looked inside, expecting to see several large nuggets. He was stunned to see that the pouch was filled with thousands of flecks of gold. The old prospector said, “Son, it seems to me you are so busy looking for large nuggets that you’re missing filling your pouch with these precious flecks of gold. The patient accumulation of these little flecks has brought me great wealth.”

So many people in life are like the young merchant, always after that great big elusive goal of “true happiness”? They search and search to find those things that will make them happy but always end up frustrated. They change jobs, change cars, or change spouses looking for that big gold nugget.

The truth is that happiness is found in small flecks all throughout our every day lives. Sometimes they are out in the open and sometimes they are buried within the mundane and boring rocks but they are there, all around us, if we only look for them. When we find them, it is important that we take time to savor each one. Stop

and enjoy the small and wonderful moments of life like playing with children, spending time with a loved one, enjoying a hobby or just taking a walk outside. As you do, you will begin to collect a bag full of joyful experiences that will add up to a happy life.

True happiness is not found in the large nuggets of life that come sporadically but in the small flecks of happiness collected over a lifetime.

May your pan be full of gold as you search the rivers of life.


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