Lessons on the beach

beach shells

OK, can I just say that I found out this morning that sand dollars are false advertising? I’ll elaborate in a second.

My family and I spent the weekend at Fort Myers Beach in a beautiful beach condo, courtesy of some lovely friends of ours. I had an idea for a craft project (does that make me crafty?) that required me to collect some shells, so I hopped across the street to the beach bright and early, kicked off my sandals and made a beeline for the shore, armed with my camera (you never know what sights you may come across), cell phone (you know, in case of emergency) and a ziploc bag (to store aforementioned shells).

First, let me digress a bit. Whodda thunk that you can get a pedicure just walking along the shore? Just occasionally grind the soles of your feet in the combo of wet sand and shells as you walk, and let the water wash over them repeatedly – bam! free pedicure, courtesy of nature!

OK, back to what I was saying. I found quite a few treasures along my walk, some really pretty shells, including a rather large conch and some bits of what looks like mother-of-pearl (well, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it until some mother-of-pearl connoiseur can prove otherwise). As I walked, I spotted something large and round that was washed ashore. Let it be a huge shell, I prayed silently. I picked up said object and inspected it. A sand dollar. Only it looked nothing like the pretty white ones I’ve seen in stores and framed art, the ones that are in the picture above (which, by the way, is a stock photo but could have been a snapshot of my collection, minus the sand dollars). This one was brownish-black with fuzz all around the edges. When I flipped it over…ewww! The backside was completely covered with gill-like stuff that reminded me of the underside of a portabella mushroom. I noticed that there were a few others around me and they all looked like that. I dropped it, stepped away in disgust and kept steppin’. A little further up, I stopped to indulge in a beach pedicure. As I dug my ashy heels into the sand/shell pumice, a lady walked up to me. She had noticed me picking shells and proudly held out her hands, with 5 sand dollars in them. “Ma’am, would you like one? I found these back there!” (pointing in the direction I’d come from). I marveled at her enthusiasm. She looked like she’d found a treasure and was eager to share. I tried my darnedest not to poop on her parade and so I nicely declined, thanking her for her generosity.

As she walked away, I marveled. The same object that I had dropped in disgust and walked away from, she had found and gathered like a prize. My trash was her treasure.  What a reflection of life! It made me begin to second-guess my rejection of the ugly sand dollars. Then I thought ‘nah!’

Imagine with me that that sand dollar was a person who had feelings. It would have suffered rejection and a blow to its self-esteem by my insensitivity. I saw no beauty at all in it because I was comparing it to an ideal, commercially appealing image. But then right on the heels of that rejection, God sent along someone who did not see it through the same filter that I did. Instead she saw the raw, natural beauty in that sand dollar and ascribed value to it, pouring salve on the bruise inflicted by my repulsion and restoring its self-esteem.

Who knew that my simple quest to gather shells would end up being a gentle reminder from God about the power of love and checking the lenses through which I see? I love how He can get my attention even when I’m not paying any!


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Joseph
    Nov 04, 2009 @ 16:39:43

    Wow, you should preach on Sunday!


  2. solathompson
    Nov 05, 2009 @ 00:49:08

    Sure, anytime. Got a pulpit I can borrow? 😉


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