When I was a little kid, we took a family trip to Britannia Beach and did the tour of the mine… which I highly recommend. Every aspect of that Britannia Mine is impressive. These days the museum has been re-done (they did extensive upgrades just before the 2010 Olympics)… and there is plenty to see and do.

One thing you could do back then (and still can today) is pan for gold.

They had a little fake river set up, and you’d take your pan and sift through the sand, and maybe find something. Indeed, you’d always find something because it was a tourist trap and they wanted you to leave happy… so for $5, you’d probably walk away with 50 cents worth of gold flakes that they’d salted the sand with.

For what it’s worth, panning for gold is a very Zen thing to do. Whenever I find myself on the banks of a river, I wish I had a pan with me. I really should throw one in the car, just in case. I’m unlikely to ever actually find anything, but… you know, it’s the journey, not the destination.

So… those many years ago, once I’d finished panning, the guy in charge fished out the few specks of gold I’d found and put them in a little clear plastic vial… full of water, and my little gold.

My father – the mining engineer – always had with him a couple of little gold nuggets that he had taped inside his wallet. Just something cool to carry around. One of them was perhaps half the size of a penny, and he took it out and put it in the vial. “There, that looks better”, he said.

The guy running the panning station was pretty amused, and they had a good laugh and talked gold for a bit… and, as they were talking, a busload of Japanese tourists showed up. They began looking around, and one came over to see what we were up to. The guy explained the whole panning-for-gold thing… and then my dad showed him the vial.

This tourist looked at the vial with great astonishment, and yelled out something in Japanese… which brought over more people, all of them looking at the vial with excitement. And then… they all wanted to pan for gold. There was only space (and pans) for maybe 10 people, but now there was a whole line up. My dad (and, for sure, the guy running it) were greatly amused.

So many metaphors and sayings you could attach to this little story. Certainly, the first one that comes to mind is… not everything that glitters is gold. The irony, of course, is that in this case, it literally was gold… but still, not the gold you’d expect. Pay attention to where the gold comes from. Pay attention to what you’re being shown. Be careful what you believe. I’m pretty sure none of those Japanese tourists walked away with anything close to what I had in my little vial. I wonder how many of them felt hoodwinked.

Yes, it’s election season down south, and there will be a lot of glittery golden messages being thrown around. They’ll look and sound so big and shiny and impressive. My American friends… and I realize the vast majority of people reading this are actually Canadian, but to those it reaches… like those Japanese tourists who probably didn’t go back to try a second time…don’t get hoodwinked. Once was enough.

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