This really happened.
There was a young girl who was born in Los Angeles and lived a very circumscribed life . Her family’s circumstances were modest and she was never able to travel as she would have liked to. She reached adulthood without ever having left the place of her birth. All that changed when she met a nice young man , fell in love with him and got married . For their honeymoon, they went to the Dominican Republic and she simply loved it. The sand , the sun , the palms ,the beaches, the luxurious resort they stayed in … it was so wonderful , so different from everything she had experienced. Even after they got back from their honeymoon , she kept thinking about their trip and re-living it in her mind.
Several months later , as their first wedding anniversary drew close , her husband asked her where she would like to celebrate it . She told him she would love to go to the Turks and Caicos Islands. He checked it out but the Turks and Caicos Islands are a very expensive proposition. Regretfully , he had to tell her that it would not be possible .
This girl’s story reminded me of ” Acres of Diamonds “, a speech made famous a century ago by Russell Conwell ( 1843-1925), an American Baptist , minister, orator, lawyer and philanthropist. Conwell was the founder and first president of Temple University but his lasting claim to fame is this speech which he delivered more than 6,000 times to audiences all around the world. In it he told the story of a wealthy Persian, al Hafed, who owned a large and prosperous farm. Al Hafed led a contented life until a chance meeting with a holy man fired a desire for even greater riches. From this holy man , he heard of diamonds and how they could make a man wealthy beyound imagination. This priest told him “…if you will find a river that runs over white sand between high mountains… in those sands you will always see diamonds., plenty of them; all you have to do is just go and find them, then you have them.” Hearing this al Hafed sold his farm, collected his money , left his family with a neighbor, and set out in search of diamonds. Many , many years he wandered, searching , searching , searching for diamonds … alas, without success. Finally , one day when he was an old man, clad in rags,, his money gone , wretched in his poverty, he could stand it no more . He cast himself into the sea and put an end to his misery.
Meanwhile , the man who had bought al Hafed’s farm took his camel to a brook on his property. As the camel drank his fill , he saw that the sunlight was glinting off some rocks in the shallows. The man picked one of them up and found that it was not a rock but a diamond. Nor was it the only one . Had al Hafed remained at home and dug in his own garden, he would have unearthed priceless gems in every shovelful of dirt. Instead of wretchedness , poverty and death , he would have found ” acres of diamonds”.
The moral of the story – and the gist of Conwell’s speech- is that one need not look elsewhere for opportunity, achievement or fortune. The resources to achieve all good things in life are to be found in one’s own backyard.
To get back to the girl from Los Angeles: I can quite understand how her trip to the Dominican Republic fueled her desire to repeat the experience . I’ve been to the Dominican Republic myself and stayed in one of those all -inclusive resorts. It’s a wonderful vacation and I can fully empathise with that young lady. However , what do the Turks and Caicos Islands that cannot be enjoyed much closer to home ? Warm weather , beaches , palm trees , sun and sand , blue seas … you do need to go to the Turks and Caicos for these things . In California itself there are several resorts where you can enjoy all these for much less than you would pay in the T& C. I remember staying at the Loews Resort outside of San Diego shortly after we had returned from a trip to the Caribbean. Honestly , there was hardly any difference between the two experiences. I do hope that the young lady scaled back her dreams , temporarily, and had a great vacation in California itself.
She is not alone in her delusions . Distance lends enchantment and many of us make the same mistake , dreaming of a European vacation when we could be enjoying ourselves right here in America . In California and New York State alone there is so much diversity in climate and scenery that you never need to venture out of those states to have a great time . Not far from New York City is Bear Mountain where each fall Oktoberfest is celebrated . The ruggedly beautiful scenery there reminds Germans of landscapes back home and not a few German – Americans make their home in the area . I remember going to the Bear Mountain Inn , thirty and more years ago, dining on wiener schnitzel and drinking good German beer while a group of celebrants at the bar, togged out in liederhosen ,and blouses, and caps with feathers stuck in them , linked arms and sang along to the sounds of an oompah-oompah band. Maybe not quite like Bavaria but close enough. As for California, it has beaches , deserts , ski slopes , redwoods and great natural beauty.And English is understood everywhere , an advantage that cannot be properly evaluated unless one has tried to get directions in a foreign country like China.
Russell Conwell was right . There are acres of diamonds waiting to be discovered right here in our own backyard.