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Acres of Diamonds

One of the most interesting Americans alive around the turn of the century was a man by the name of Russell Herman Conwell. He was born in 1843 and lived until 1925. He was a lawyer for about fifteen years, and then he became a clergyman (I think he was a Baptist).

One day, a young man came to him at the church and told him he wanted a college education, but was in such a fix financially that he just couldn’t swing it. Dr. Conwell decided right then and there what his aim in life was, besides being a man of the cloth, this is. He decided to build a university for the poor, but deserving, youngsters. He had a problem, however. He’d need a few million dollars to swing the deal. But things like that don’t seem to stand in the way of people with a real purpose in life.

Several years before, Dr. Conwell had been tremendously intrigued by a true story, which had an ageless moral to it. The story was about a farmer who lived in Africa and, through a visitor, became tremendously excited about looking for diamonds. Diamonds had already been discovered in some abundance on the African continent, and this farmer got so excited about the idea of millions of dollars worth of diamonds that he sold his farm and headed out to strike it rich by discovering a diamond mine. He wandered all over the continent, as the years slipped by, constantly searching for diamonds, which he never found. He finally wound up completely broken by the whole thing, became despondent, threw himself into a river, and drowned.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch (or rather the farm he’d sold), the new owner had picked up an unusual looking rock about the size of a country egg, and put it on his mantle as a sort of curiosity.

Some time later, the same visitor, the one who had brought the story of diamonds to the previous owner, came by again, and when seeing this rock on the mantle, practically went into terminal convulsions. Pulling himself together, he told the new owner of the farm that the funny looking rock on his mantle was just about the biggest diamond that had ever been found.

Whereupon the new owner of the farm said, “Heck, the whole farm’s covered with those things,” or words to that effect.

Sure enough, it was. If my memory serves me right, this farm turned out to be the Kimberly Diamond Mine . . . the richest the world has ever known.

The farmer who’d sold the place had literally been standing on acres of diamonds, and then sold his farm and wound up in the river because he never found any.

In telling this story, Dr. Conwell likened each of us to the first farmer. Each of us really is right in the middle of his or her own acres of diamonds if only we have enough sense to realize it and develop the ground we’re standing on before we go charging off looking for greener pastures.

Dr. Conwell told this story more than six-thousand times. He must have been a terrific speaker, because he attracted enormous audiences, and he raised enough money to start that college for poor but deserving kids he had his heart set on. In fact, he raised about six million dollars and the university he founded is still going strong; it’s Temple University in Philadelphia, with ten degree-granting colleges and six other schools.

When Doctor Russell H. Conwell talked about each of us being right on his or her own acres of diamonds, he surely knew what he was talking about. It’s a story that can’t get old . . . because it’s been true forever . . . and I guess it always will be.

You know . . . opportunity doesn’t just “come along” as most people think. It’s there all the time - we have to be able to see it.