“He who can give to this people better streets, better homes, better schools, better churches, more religion, more happiness, more of God, he that can be a blessing to the community in which he lives tonight will be great anywhere, but he who cannot be a blessing where he now lives will never be great anywhere on the face of God’s earth.” –Russell H. Conwell, Acres of Diamonds essay
We read this short essay this month and there were some mixed feelings on the topic. The basic idea, outside of some rambling is summed up in the quote above: the idea being that you don’t have to go out in search of greatness or happiness or wealth. Rather, you should look to what is right in front of you and put it to use.
Conwell makes the wild statement that there is no reason you should not be wealthy living in the United States; that the opportunities are lying all around us and are just waiting to be discovered and shared with society. He asserts that it is our Christian duty to work and to find ways to better serve humanity.
One of the conflicts that some in the group had was the Christian view on wealth; that there appeared to be two seemingly opposing views on wealth for the Christian:
- The essence of the Christian life is rooted in poverty. How can it be virtuous to pursue wealth?
- Christians should strive to build wealth to be a blessing on society. How is poverty a blessing?
The reality is that the attachment to money and things is the sin.
Despite the strong feelings on the topic, I took away a different thought on this essay. I believe that it was a treatise on personal accountability and diligence, not a glorification of money itself. Conwell gives several examples of people who had opportunity to profit from something right in front of them, but chose to look for their fortune in “foreign lands”–anywhere away from where they are now. He makes the case that you have all the opportunities you need to better serve your fellow man right in front of you. You don’t need to search high and low for a purpose, or a profit. You just need to be responsible for your time, your talents, your skills and your efforts right where you are.
I would even go a step beyond material wealth and say that everything that we need to gain Heaven is right in front of us–to grow in holiness because of where we are, not in spite of it. We don’t need to go away to far away lands to serve “the poor.” We can serve the attention-impoverished in our own home. We don’t need to invest countless hours in service to others when we have so much service to be done for our family first. We don’t need to seek out new suffering when we have sufficient opportunities to offer up our pain and discouragement right now. Our vocation has everything we need to walk in holiness.
I struggle with the reality that everything that is within my reach is my path to holiness. I wish it were somewhere else sometimes because it looks easier to handle than what I have facing me. But my life, with all its challenges and frustrations, has everything I need to overcome my pride, to grow in virtue and to serve God to the best of my ability–without the need to search elsewhere.
St. Teresa of Calcutta always had a way of cutting to the chase–of pointing out simply the path of holiness:”We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry, naked and homeless. The poverty of being unwanted, unloved and uncared for is the greatest poverty. We must start in our own homes to remedy this kind of poverty.”
The Acres of Diamonds that surround me shine brightly in my husband, my children, my family and friends and neighbors as well as in my clients and employees. I will continue to look for ways to “mine” the diamonds right in front of me and hopefully leave my family and community better for it.
What do your Acres of Diamonds hold?
Download the Acres of Diamonds here to read for yourself.