Good Luck Charm

I carry symbols of luck with me daily. In my change purse you will find a United States Marine Corps Semper Fidelis Master Gunnery Sergeant coin, which was given to me by a dear friend, Ed Loch, who passed away from pancreatic cancer in 2007. Next to this coin is a silver heart that reads ‘never lose hope.’ In the see-through card slot in my wallet are several four-leaf clovers that my parents handpicked. Along with a fortune cookie message, ‘You create your own stage and your audience is waiting.’ In a side pocket of my wallet, I have snippets of inspirational messages that friends have sent me. One written by Jordan Knighton reads, “We love you. This is a great day to be alive and share the knowledge and inspiration of hope and support. Your work is foundational and like the rivers we live by, you are at the confluence of opportunity that will flow inspiration and energy toward the future life for many souls.” In the back pouch of my purse is an ‘angel of hope’ pocket token from my father, a silver rock with a Zuni bear printed on it from my dad and an angel good luck charm that my mom and I purchased at Johns Hopkins Hospital many years ago.

I enjoy surrounding myself with positive energy. Good luck charms are personal items with unique meanings to the individual. For me they are sources of inspiration that remind me every day how beautiful life is, how far I have come and how far I will go. I received one of my prized good luck charms from a stranger.


Several years ago I was asked to speak to the Rotary Club in Auburn, CA. Shortly after entering the dining room, a man walked toward me holding my biography, “My Favorite American.” I did not recognize him and was surprised that someone in attendance had my biography. He said that he wrote my introductory bio for the Rotary Club of Auburn newsletter and as soon as he learned of my story, he purchased my biography. He praised my book and said he would love if I would autograph it for him and his wife. His name is Don Yamasaki. When I learned of his name, I instantly wondered if he was part of ‘The’ Yamasaki family, who are extremely respected and well known in Auburn, CA for their amazing landscape creations as owners of Yamasaki Nursery.

Don & Valen

Shortly after my speech, Don made his way over to my table for me to autograph his book. Don has such a kind aura, where you instantly know he is a wonderful human being. I asked him if he was part of the Yamasaki Nursery family and he began to tell me and my friend Cody, who was there with me, a fascinating story. Don said his father, George Muneichi Yamasaki, lived to the age of 105. In 1917, Don’s father joined his father growing fruit trees for sale to orchards throughout California, and together they started a fruit tree nursery. In 1926, Don’s father and his wife expanded the nursery to include ornamental plants, landscape construction, rock walls and bonsai. In 1953, Don and his brother joined their parents in the family business.

Don shared that his father received many prestigious awards and recognition for his work and that his passion was bonsai trees. He would train and shape them into magnificent bonsai. Don told us that many years ago there was a particular bonsai that his father was drawn to. Many lost their patience and interest with this specific bonsai because they did not believe it would survive. His father kept working with it and never gave up on the bonsai. Don’s dad wound up keeping it alive and shaped it into a unique beauty. He said his dad gave it to him before he passed and that it has been on his patio for years. My friend and I were completely engrossed and fascinated by the history Don shared of his family and this special story of the bonsai. Then Don looked at me and said, “I’d like to give it to you.” I stared at him for what seemed like minutes. I was speechless and told him that I could not possibly take this special bonsai from him. Don said that after learning of my story, he looked at the bonsai on his patio and thought I must have it. I was so overwhelmed with appreciation. I assumed we would meet at a later date to receive this amazing gift. Don then said, “I have it in my car.”

Don, Cody and I made our way outside for the unveiling of his father’s work of art. At first glance, its beauty stunned me. I felt like I was given a child to care for and had no idea what to do. Don said, “Just water it every day and make sure it gets a little bit of sun and a little bit of shade.” I thought that sounds too easy. To this day, I am humbled to have received such a treasure.

According to Japanese tradition, the bonsai represents the three virtues or shin-zen-bi, which translates into “truth,” “goodness” and “beauty.” This bonsai gem has such character. I like the way its branches flow up and out on a diagonal angle from its trunk. I love that Don’s father did not give up on it; he supported it, believed in it, stuck with it, nurtured it and loved it. This good luck charm represents strength in the face of adversity. I look at as a symbol of my life.

What is your good luck charm?


  1. Julia Adams

    As a good luck charm kind of person myself and a bonsia lover, I love this post! I carry a pocket angel, a rose quartz heart and a mandala strung by a soulful, kind friend. These items remind me of all the positive energy and abundance that exist even when things get hard. When my husband and I moved into our house 25 years ago, one of our new neighbors brought over a bonsai tree from his collection to welcome us to the neighborhood. We were so touched! It was 15 years old at the time so I guess that makes it 40 years old now, wow!! My husband and I consider it one of our most prized possessions! Our neighbor passed away 15 years ago and his wife just last week at age 90. This is such a special gift to remember them by. Thanks for making me smile as I remember this Valen. You have such a talent for spreading joy!! XO

    • Valen Keefer

      Hi Julia!
      Thank you for sharing your beautiful good luck charms. I love that our most prized possessions are our bonsai trees which have such sentimental stories. We sure are kindred spirits! xo


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