When I was a youngster, occasionally my grandfather would give me a silver dollar. Collectors’ coins today, these silver minted gifts now serve as part of my recollection of lessons he taught me.
One of those lessons involved gum wrappers.
Growing up poor, many of us in our community wanted to go to a weeklong camp.
This dream of our young lives included cabin camping, marshmallow roasting, backpacking, fishing and swimming.
But to live the dream cost money.
I thought that perhaps my grandfather and his silver dollars would pay my way and those of my buddies.
That did not happen; rather, he persuaded some local merchants to financially support our camp experience if we in turn promised to keep the main business strip clean of litter.
Like a minted coin, a deal was struck and we went to work.
“We’ll begin with the worst first,” my grandfather said as he positioned us arms-length apart at the very bottom of an embankment on the side of a drainage ditch.
With a smile on his face he pointed at the top of the ditch and then added, “We’re going to take that hill, and we’re going to leave nary a gum wrapper behind.”
Above and in front of us loomed an impenetrable bramble of blackberry bushes, to say nothing about the thorns and stickers waiting for us.
Working up the embankment, the “nary a gum wrapper” included beer bottles, household garbage, a mattress and a rotting turkey.
The smell was beyond description!
And yet we labored on, and by the end of the morning every single stinking piece of garbage had found its way into a dumpster.
The business owners kept their end of the promise, and off to camp we all went. The time there was all and more than what we had dreamt.
Occasionally I come across the silver dollars my grandfather gifted to me, and as I feel their weight in my hand, I recall that day when he stood beside us in that ditch and imparted a lesson of what hard work can make dreams a reality.
The views expressed in this article are the writer’s own.