Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Lessons of the Sandpiper

In working through a study this week on the condition of my heart, I got this story as it arrived in my email that speaks volumes to what we all need a whole lot more of in life. I hope it inspires you as much as it did for me today. ~ Love Kat

She was six years old when I first met her on the beach near where I live. I drive to this beach, a distance of three or four miles, whenever the world begins to close in on me. She was building a sandcastle or something and looked up, her eyes as blue as the sea.

“Hello,” she said. I answered with a nod, not really in the mood to bother with a small child. “I’m building,” she said.

“I see that. What is it?” I asked, not caring.

“Oh, I don’t know, I just like the feel of sand.

“That sounds good, I thought, and slipped off my shoes. A sandpiper glided by.

“That’s a joy,” the child said.

“It’s a what?”

“It’s a joy. My mama says sandpipers come to bring us joy.” The bird went glding down the beach.

“Good-bye joy,” I muttered to myself, “hello pain,” and turned to walk on. I was depressed; my life seemed completely out of balance.

“What’s your name?” She wouldn’t give up.

“Ruth,” I answered. “I’m Ruth Peterson.”

“Mine’s Wendy… I’m six.”

“Hi, Wendy.”

She giggled. “You’re funny,” she said. In spite of my gloom I laughed too and walked on. Her musical giggle followed me.

“Come again, Mrs. P,” she called. “We’ll have another happy day.”

The days and weeks that followed belong to others: a group of unruly Boy Scouts, PTA meetings, and ailing mother. The sun was shining one morning as I took my hands out of the dishwater. “I need a sandpiper,” I said to myself, gathering up my coat. The ever-changing balm of the seashore awaited me.

The breeze was chilly, but I strode along, trying to recapture the serenity I needed. I had forgotten the child and was startled when she appeared.

“Hello, Mrs. P,” she said. “Do you want to play?”

“What did you have in mind?” I asked, with a twinge of annoyance.

“I don’t know, you say.”

“How about charades?” I asked sarcastically.

The tinkling laughter burst forth again. “I don’t know what that is.”

“Then let’s just walk.” Looking at her, I noticed the delicate fairness of her face

“Where do you live?” I asked.

“Over there.” She pointed toward a row of summer cottages. Strange, I thought, in winter.

“Where do you go to school?”

“I don’t go to school. Mommy says we’re on vacation.” She chattered little girl talk as we strolled up the beach, but my mind was on other things. When I left for home, Wendy said it had been a happy day.

Feeling surprisingly better, I smiled at her and agreed. Three weeks later, I rushed to my beach in a state of near panic. I was in no mood to even greet Wendy. I thought I saw her mother on the porch and felt like demanding she keep her child at home.

“Look, if you don’t mind,” I said crossly when Wendy caught up with me, “I’d rather be alone today.”

She seems unusually pale and out of breath.

“Why?” she asked.

I turned to her and shouted, “Because my mother died!” and thought, my God, why was I saying this to a little child?

“Oh,” she said quietly, “then this is a bad day.”

“Yes, and yesterday and the day before and-oh, go away!”

“Did it hurt? ”

“Did what hurt?” I was exasperated with her, with myself.

“When she died?” “Of course it hurt!” I snapped, misunderstanding, wrapped up in myself. I strode off. A month or so after that, when I next went to the beach, she wasn’t there. Feeling guilty, ashamed and admitting to myself I missed her, I went up to the cottage after my walk and knocked at the door. A drawn looking young woman with honey-colored hair opened the door.

“Hello,” I said. “I’m Ruth Peterson. I missed your little girl today and wondered where she was.”

“Oh yes, Mrs. Peterson, please come in” “Wendy talked of you so much.

I’m afraid I allowed her to bother you. If she was a nuisance, please, accept my apologies.”

“Not at all-she’s a delightful child,” I said, suddenly realizing that I meant it. “Where is she?”

“Wendy died last week, Mrs. Peterson. She had leukemia. Maybe she didn’t tell you.” Struck dumb, I groped for a chair. My breath caught.

“She loved this beach; so when she asked to come, we couldn’t say no.

She seemed so much better here and had a lot of what she called happy days. But the last few weeks, she declined rapidly…” her voice faltered.

“She left something for you…if only I can find it. Could you wait a moment while I look?”

I nodded stupidly, my mind racing for something, anything, to say to this lovely young woman. She handed me a smeared envelope, with MRS. P printed in bold, childish letters. Inside was a drawing in bright crayon hues-a yellow beach, a blue sea, and a brown bird. Underneath was carefully printed: A SANDPIPER TO BRING YOU JOY

Tears welled up in my eyes, and a heart that had almost forgotten to love opened wide. I took Wendy’s mother in my arms. “I’m so sorry, I’m sorry, I’m so sorry,” I muttered over and over, and we wept together.

The precious little picture is framed now and hangs in my study. Six words- one for each year of her life- that speak to me of harmony, courage, undemanding love. A gift from a child with sea-blue eyes and hair the color sand— who taught me the gift of love.


NOTE: I hope you have a few Kleenex tissues in that box. The above is a true story sent out by Ruth Peterson. It serves as a reminder to all of us that we need to take time to enjoy living and life and each other.

“The price of hating other human beings is loving oneself less”


renewd42 said...

Oh my how true! We need to take the time, to enjoy the times, we have w/ each other. They go by too quickly! I cannot believe my youngest son...is a senior this year! Oh how we should love and squeeze our children! and all those we love! blessings, and thanks for sharing! :) Lisa

Divine Mrs D said...

What a sadly beautiful story. Thank you so much for sharing :)

Parsley said...

Keeps things in perspective, doesn't it.

lisasmith said...

Thanks for sharing your heart. You are definitely a ray of encouragement in my day =)
love, lisa xoxo

David C Brown said...

Thank you, and God bless you; there's nothing to add to this.

Mari said...

What a wonderful story. There are several good lessons there!

Sharlyn Guthrie said...

Thanks for sharing this touching story. Children are so plainspoken and much wiser than we usually give them credit. We really should listen to them more than we do!

LV said...

I enjoy all your your inspiring stories. However, after last Saturday's Pink Saturday, I was emotionally drained. Then you come along with this tear jerker, but still one we all need to learn from.

NanaNor's said...

Girl you got me crying here...what an incredible story and one we need to remember. Thank you Kat for sharing it today.
Love you lots.

Crown of Beauty said...

I wasn't prepared to cry when I started reading this...but then again, tears are always welcome in my life, dear Kat.

This is such a precious story.

Thanks so much for sharing it.


sunnycalgirl said...

A reminder to grasp each day with joy and to be grateful for each of them..wonderful story!

Cathy said...

Thank you for that reminder. Too often I get caught up in the problems of a day and forget to remember the joy!

sunshine said...

WOW! You touched my heart with this story, very sad that us humans don't know what we got until is gone. We need to live every day and enjoy every moment always thinking that it is unique and will never repeat.
So much to learn but we still got time if we manage to see the world through the eyes of God. Blessings and thanks for sharing.

Beth E. said...

What a touching story. Thanks so much for sharing it, Kat!

Denise said...

Very heart touching story sis.

Relyn said...

Beautiful! Just beautiful.