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The Fool's Gold

Beginning in 1848 when gold was first discovered in California, thousands moved west hoping to find chunks of precious gold metal in the hills and become wealthy. 

I went on a field trip with my daughter’s school class to learn about the Gold Rush and was shown a big chunk of shiny gold rock called iron pyrite. We all were impressed by it, and were told how many gold miners came across these large golden chunks and thought that they had struck it rich. After they had gathered up all of this rock they could find, they tried to cash it in at the bank. They were told it was completely worthless. They had been fooled by its appearance. Iron pyrite does not contain the unique properties that give true gold its value. In fact it is not even a metal. It is made up of iron and sulfur. Hence the nick-name for it became “fool’s gold.”  

All the time those prospectors had spent gathering this sparkling rock had been a completely wasted. They had nothing that they could turn in for the money to feed their families or to grow their fortune.
It made me wonder, am I gathering fool’s gold or the real thing in my life? What are the figuratively large, shiny, attention grabbing things that take up my time and distract me from the sometimes harder to find golden nuggets? Below are some examples of golden things we all may be missing by gathering the foolish version instead.

Knowledge. We read articles on many popular news sites and blogs. Many times eye-catching pictures at the bottom or along the sides of the page are begging us to click on them. Even when what we came to read is valuable and insightful, this kind of click-bait fools us into spending our time on gossip or images that offer nothing.

Reading can be one of the most worthwhile pastimes, but depending on what we read it can also be a brain drain. Reading scripture is always an easy way to strike gold. We can also find goodness in many other types of books like: historical books, text books, and novels. However, books with hollow plots, degrading messages or those that promote immoral activity will add nothing to our knowledge or imagination.

Games, Movies, and TV. I have seen lists of online games that are even categorized as “time wasters.” They don’t even try to hide that they are pointless. Find some of the many games, movies, and shows that can help us unwind, relax, have fun, and are actually beneficial.

Social media. Sharing ideas and updates on our families is a great thing. However, we may need to set limits for ourselves (maybe only once a day for 20 minutes) so we are not spending so much time posting and scrolling through others’ posts that we miss out on real experiences and memories.

Photos. We love taking pictures. It’s fun to look back on them later, but it’s also important to sometimes just experience the experience. If our memories of an event are limited to finding the best angle in the camera, we may have missed out on some emotional connections we could have made for ourselves.

Less is more. We downsized our home’s square footage by almost half about 2 years ago and I have not missed it. I thought that I could be better organized in a bigger house, and in some ways that was true, but a smaller one forces me to get rid of things that I really don’t need. I also spend less time cleaning and more time with my family. Living in closer quarters means we interact more.  

Striving for perfection. Wanting to be our best is a noble thing. Allowing the quest for perfection to taint our opinion of ourselves and others brings no happiness. Any time someone wants to improve at something there will be mistakes. Beating ourselves up and criticizing others for their missteps only brings frustration and contention. Be patient and supportive as others learn.


Let us be wise in our mining and learn to spot the fool’s gold. When we come to the end of our lives and it’s time to turn in our rock collection, I hope you and I will both find that we gathered gold of real value and not the imitation.

Image Source: sciencebuzz.org

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