Off road in a four-wheel drive, maneuvering a 26 mile, one way, deep and narrow canyon “road” in Death Valley National Park while on vacation, my husband and I came upon Leadfield, a ghost town with a story. The town was born from a getrich-quick scheme with promises of lead and copper fueled by the Western Lead Mine Company. More than 300 people made the journey, and by 1925 Leadfield’s population was at its height.
Perhaps the advertising approach of promoter C.C. Julian hastened the town’s demise a year later. Despite the land-locked remote desert mountain town location, Wikipedia notes that the promoter’s “advertising posters showed steamboats navigating the Amargosa River to Leadfield, ignoring the fact that the Amargosa River is dry much of the time and does not run within 20 miles of Leadfield.”
As I stood near a remaining structure that day, it was easy to blame that get-rich-along-a-beautiful river lie for the fate of Leadfield. But while significant, what hit me was that those promoters were also peddling something more: hope. Not everyone came to “get rich quick;” some were seeking an opportunity for a better life.
When we’re tempted by our own “Leadfields,” isn’t that what calls to us, too? Hope. We want to believe it’s possible to create a better life for ourselves and our children, to “strike it rich” at life or love or health or something else we need or want. We want to believe good things can happen to us, too. And because we do, we can fall for the hype, the promise, the spin at times. If we just invest in this start-up, take this pill, or attend this school things will be better.
Like many of those Leadfield citizens, the deeper seduction for most of us is not greed, but the hope of finding a path of possibility where we might create the life we want, or find the person or job of our dreams; we might restore youthfulness or finally discover the secret to a healthy, stress-free successful life. What we “buy” then, is not so much a product or service or new adventure, but the hope for a better life. It’s that hope that sustains us a bit longer. Hope for what is possible; what might be; what could be.
While hope can sell us things we don’t need, the reality is hope generally is a good thing. We all need something to hope for. It’s hope that brings us out to elect new leaders who might change the trajectory of our country to be more aligned with our dreams. It’s hope that brought our ancestors to this country, where freedom from and freedom to could change generational futures. And it’s hope that gets us through loss and trying life-happens events that touch our lives.
In the scheme of things we all need a path of possibility. We need hope in our lives. Hope we can live a good life. Find love. Be healthy. Know happiness. Make a difference. Achieve dreams. Reach potential. Speak honestly. Experience equality of opportunity. Make a better future. Live fully. It’s hope that fuels us and pulls us forward, inspiring us to strive for something better for ourselves, our families, our community, and our world.
So, instead of thinking how gullible Leadfielders were for falling for that scheme, I think we should celebrate them, and the thousands of people like them who are willing to risk and venture out every day with a hope for a better life. Whether successful or not, these people increase their odds of someday finding greater possibility for their lives, and as they do, they nudge and inspire all of us to use hope to fuel our own actions and futures.