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Treasures of Truth

Text by: Christine Pethel

Truth is the property of no individual but is the treasure of all men.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson, Author & Poet
For as long as I can remember, I have been on an endless quest to find life's treasure. What is a person's treasure, and how soon can they find it? Is it about material things that one can hold in their hand, or is it something else, less tangible, that can bring even greater happiness? I needed to find out the truth… my truth. That was my mission.

One might immediately assume my adventure had been to seek for wealth, since the word "treasure" has, for quite some time, been synonymous with pirates seeking a treasure chest full of coins, an archaeologist searching for antique relics, or a knight in shining armor seeking the Holy Grail. Even in modern times, people have sought out fame and fortune, power and wealth. While many of these things have enticed me at times, deep down I have always known there was something more.

I have never felt guilty of my desires for possessions. Throughout history, this desire has been one of the same wished for by actors, singers, poets, businessmen, mechanics, librarians, administrative assistants, stay-at-home moms, and just about any other person who's ever walked the planet. I'm quite confident that at one time or another, each of them wondered if their life would be just a little bit better if they had a little more money in it. And why not? It has been said that "Money makes the world go around." So who wouldn't want that which is so highly valued enough to control the entire world? We'd finally find happiness, right? People would treat us better, and we'd actually feel better about ourselves. If only we had fortune and fame, life would finally be good. But still I wondered…

The secret of a happy life isn't buried in a treasure chest...
It lies within your heart.
-Author Unknown, from Life is for Living

I don't quite remember when my journey began, but I've been on this voyage since a very early age. I was taught to pick a goal and walk straight toward it, not looking back. So for a while, that's what I did. My purpose was all I could think about, and I had a hard time paying attention to anything else. But at the time, I was on my destined path, and that's all that mattered. I was on a journey to find out what was important to me.

Growing up, I watched how my mom always kept a scrapbook for each stage of her life. This was long before acid-free paper scrapbooking, design-your-own hardbound memory book, or record your life online via personal blog. She started even before the days of sticky album paper, which was covered with a plastic sheet you needed to peel back to paste a picture. She had scrapbooks made of simple pictures glued to blank pieces of white paper all bound into a padded, covered book. The way she decorated her scrapbooks was by pasting quotes that inspired her, cut-out pictures from greeting cards, and small items she had collected along the way, such as certificates of advancements, report cards, ticket stubs, or graduation programs.

I remember, from a very young age, opening these scrapbooks and looking at every childhood, adolescent, and married-life picture of my mom, her siblings, family, friends, husband, children, and loved ones memorialized on the pages. She has complete scrapbooks dedicated to the myriad of Christmas cards she receives each year. And believe me, she has amassed a large number of friends over the years. She comes from a family of 11 children, so you can imagine how many cards she receives on a yearly basis. But I've never been surprised by her scrapbooks of "people." My mom is the epitome of valuing people. Her own mantra has always been, "People before things," and she exemplified this saying throughout her entire life.

© Ruth Schultz Photography

Many times, she looked the other way if someone borrowed one of her belongings and never returned it.

"People before things," she would say.

Or she would hand over any of her most prized and valued possessions to her own children without even thinking twice.

"People before things."

At 18-years-old, while I was alarmed out that my 2-year-old baby brother was lifting crystal, water goblets out of a rack, carrying them (more like toddling with them), one in each hand across the large dining room, and then standing them all up in a line, my mother simply replied, "He's learning how to balance, walk, and line things up all at the same time.

"People before things."

And… this was always her favorite parenting technique when trying to persuade my siblings and I to stop fighting with each other, even through our teenage years, because:

"People before things."

There's one scrapbook in particular of hers that I can still remember to this day. It was a beautiful, white book bound with legal size pages. On the front, in the upper left-hand corner was inscribed in beautiful gold lettering, "Treasures of Truth." I think this was the first scrapbook she had started as a young teenager to record the things that were important to her. There were school report cards, 100% attendance awards, advancement certificates, church memories, notes from friends, pictures of her singing trio, cards from her boyfriends who were fighting in Vietnam, and quotes that had special meaning to her. I believe it was through this scrapbook that she could organize all the things that meant something to her, and found what her treasure of truth was and discover her inner belief of "people before things."

So, I had to ask myself, were the goals I had made to acquire just a little bit of extra money in the bank account really making my life richer? It was at that time I realized the path I had chosen to travel on was a very sad, lonely, and insignificant one. I had isolated myself from many, and had burned a few bridges along the way. It was then when I understood that for me, life wasn't only about where I was headed; it was about coloring my life's pages with the people I loved, creating meaningful experiences, and acquiring highly regarded values that I, too, could pass on. I wanted to be an influence to others, and I wanted to be able to share my riches with those around me in forms other than just coins and bills rattling around in my wallet. It was about being honest and true to myself, as well as what would make my life truly valuable to me. Those were my "Treasures of Truth."

It's not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are.
-Roy Disney, American Film Writer, Producer, Nephew of Walt Disney

Have you found what your "Treasures of Truth" are? Have you gone on a quest to learn what is most valuable to you? What is your treasure at the end of the rainbow?