Monday, June 18, 2007

AG: If Only They Had Known

For Mother’s Day, I took my wife to LakeArrowhead in the San Bernardino Mountains for a nice lunch and a cruise around the lake. It’s a familiar haunt for us, close enough for a one-day trip, distant enough to feel “out of the area.”

Lake Arrowhead is one of the many manmade lakes in California. Tall pines surround pristine blue waters. It’s the kind of place the rich and famous build homes. Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys has a stunning house on the lake, Doris Day once lived in the area, and the inscrutable Howard Hughes used to fly his seaplane and land on the lake.

It is one of loveliest spots on our planet.

Lest you think the Lake Arrowhead Chamber of Commerce has hired me to shill for them, I’ll get to the point: To buy a home on or near the lake will cost you—cost you big time. Unless you’re the type who doesn’t worry about the occasionally misplaced ten grand, you might find the mortgage payments a little steep. Bare property will set you back a million and half or more. If there’s a house on the lot…well, it goes up a few million.

During the early 1930s the Los Angeles Times undertook an interesting marketing plan. They owned a good deal of property around one of the lake’s bays. Someone decided they could increase annual subscriptions simply by giving everyone who signed up for a year’s worth of papers a lot at Lake Arrowhead. Yes, you read correctly—give a lot to everyone who paid for a year’s subscription.

Of course, in the third decade of the Twentieth Century, property values had yet to skyrocket. Still, property in exchange for a newspaper subscription seemed a pretty good deal, and many people took advantage of the offer.

Then the bill for property tax arrived. Some found the $37 a tad exorbitant and returned the lots. Actually, all the new property owners returned their subscription gift.

If only they had known.

To be fair, getting to Lake Arrowhead was more challenging seventy-five or more years ago, and the Depression had driven many families to their knees. Still…one of those “free” lots would pull in millions today.

One problem with being human is we cannot see the future. Some of us have trouble remembering the past and just making our way through the present is challenging enough. But the future is coming, and we can make a mark on it.

One idea that keeps writers going is the knowledge that their books may live beyond them. It might be in the dark corner of the library, but the book is still there. When we do what we do—writer, engineer, homemaker, whatever,—we make an impact on the future. We don’t know what the impact will be or if it will land like a Rhode Island-sized asteroid, or a speck of dust, but it will be real.

I have no idea what, if any, impact my books have had. On the scale of noticeability my work may barely register, but it will register. No one knows what the outcome of their work will be. We can plan, make educated guesses, but we can’t know with any certainty so the work itself needs to be gratifying.

King Solomon said it well: “So I commend the enjoyment of life, because nothing is better for a man under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad. Then joy will accompany him in his work all the days of the life God has given him under the sun.” (Eccl. 8:15 NIV)

Al Gansky writes from his home in California. Look for his work at


At 4:51 AM, Blogger Christina Tarabochia said...

Let me preface this with a disclosure: I'm a Gen Xer. My life has been far removed from World War II. Yes, I've learned about it in school, read memoirs, and watched movies and documentaries, but I know of it as past history.

Months ago I saw an obiturary of a man who survived a Japanese POW camp. The fear of the unknown was his greatest enemy in the camp--the not knowing which side would win the war.

Can you believe I had never considered that reality? I knew who won and that colored my view of history. I knew what the future held for those prisoners. I knew when I read THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK that she was not long for this world and Corrie Ten Boom would survive in THE HIDING PLACE.

Sometimes I think we live the same way, unsure of our future. Yet in Christ, we know which side wins!

At 9:25 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

Great post, Al. Life seems so much brighter when we take the results off our own shoulders and simply work our tools to the best of our abilities. I think we might all be surprised when we get to Heaven to see just how much impact we had down here.

At 6:07 PM, Blogger Southern-fried Fiction said...

Al, even in the mid 60s, property there was still affordable. When my husband and his parents immigrated to the U.S., my FIL looked at buying a lot up there. But coming from England where you only own the house and not the land, a 30 year loan scared them off. They decided not to do it. Sigh. We've regreted that decision ever since.


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