The ocean waves were crashing at our feet, but my friends and I were more interested in the gifts those waves offered.
Each rush of salt water provided another message from the sea. To the average observer, the ocean was giving us shells that had been beaten down into in all shapes, sizes and states of disrepair.
But we knew better.
My friend Sara got a message as she searched for shells with shades of purple. The shape and size didn’t matter. Color speaks to Sara, and the ocean understands that we all find beauty in different ways. That’s why it provided her with shells with streaks of purple, spots of purple and just a hint of color. The ocean knows that when we truly look for it, we can find beauty no matter where it is hidden.
My friend Betty got another message as she picked up shells for her yard and garden. Even though she’s already collected hundreds of shells for outdoor decorations, there is always room for more. Each shell has the potential to fit into its own find its unique space. None of the shells are perfect and many aren’t even considered attractive by most people, but collectively they make the world a more beautiful place. The ocean knows that is true for all of God’s creations.
My friend Venetta heard the ocean whispering to her as she sought shells with interesting textures. Some shells are rough with knots while others are as smooth as glass. Some resemble the shape they carried through most of their life while others look nothing like they once did. Some appear untouched by the ocean while others seem worn down. The ocean reminds us that none of us can control all the circumstances in our life, but we can control our responses. The ocean knows those responses will continue to shape us throughout our lives.
While my friends were looking for shells, I was thinking about the sand. Each grain was once a shell that has been broken into tiny pieces. One grain of sand generally goes unnoticed, but millions of grains of sand create vast beaches of exceptional beauty.
The ocean knows that we often don’t notice what is hidden in plain sight. We don’t see our child’s classmate who is struggling to read has a gift for music; we don’t realize that the neighbor kid is shooting baskets until midnight because his parents are fighting inside the house; we don’t recognize the quiet girl who would have strong opinions if only someone encouraged her to speak out; and we give little thought to the fact that a pregnant teen is carrying the future inside of her. As individuals, these people may only make a small difference in the world. But when their skills, gifts and knowledge are supported by others, we can collectively make the world more like a beach – a place of exceptional beauty that everyone can appreciate.
That’s what the ocean said to me.
Trina Bartlett lives with her husband, Giles Snyder, their teenage son and daughter, two cats and one enormous German Shepherd. When she’s not being a mom, volunteering, writing, biking or walking the giant German Shepherd, Trina works full time as a director at a nonprofit, social service organization.