Eyes on a Light Prize


I saw two kids I know, Sam and Coby, at the beach a while ago, on the other end of some fishing line that had a dollar bill hooked to it. They were pulling a classic Candid Camera prank, half-burying paper money in the sand as bait and waiting for an innocent beachgoer to walk by and discover it. Then, when the unsuspecting person bent to pick up the cash, Sam and Coby would reel it in a little bit. With the treasure suddenly out of reach, the person chasing the money would usually scamper forward and then stoop toward it once more. That’s when Sam and Coby would reel in the money a little more.

With the lightness of cash combining with a lakeshore breeze, it seemed to make sense that the dollar bill was being carried by the wind. So, people chased and chased. As many times as Sam and Coby placed their bait, somebody new fell for it. The scene was within sight from where I sat on the beach, so I observed it casually while I was around. In a span of about 25 minutes, I saw at least ten people go after that dollar on the string. Grown adults, most of them, they stooped and stomped, pounced, got frustrated, lurched for it.

When in the end they discovered they’d been had, you could see that most of the dollar-chasers felt ridiculous. And wouldn’t you? Face to face with two boys and a fishing pole, suddenly the whole cash-blowing-in-the-wind concept doesn’t hold up so much. Excitement about being one dollar richer makes you the butt of the joke.

I thought about Sam and Coby’s scheme a while later—what it’s like to chase something ungettable, what it’s like to chase something with minimal value, why we do either or both in the first place. I thought about the things people chase in life: image, fame, power, square footage, a certain car, a certain success, a certain look, an income bracket, a job title, a goal weight, a “someday.” At the very least, all these things are light enough to blow in the wind. At most, they’re the cash prizes that are always jumping out of reach, the tricks that have us hook, line, and sinker.

The question for me, for you, for the people on the beach, for anybody on either end of a fishing line is simple: Are we chasing what matters? Do we have what’s most important in our sights? Are we finding ways to get those things within reach? Or are we bouncing along in the sand, forever grabbing at what will only turn out to be more hollow than we’d thought? In relationships, in marriage, and in family, the most important things have significance that lasts; it anchors them against life’s light breezes. You probably already know what they are: faith, love, integrity, generosity, hope, patience, joy.

These are the things worth charging after. These are the things that make sense from start to finish. With most everything else, when we get to the end of the line, all we find are two boys giggling on a beach blanket. We’ve come up empty. And with that, the truth becomes painfully clear, painfully too late: some chases will never make us anything but fools. With them, the joke’s on us. So, choose the right things, the things with weight holding them down. Trust me, soon you’ll be hooked.