I read this story the other day and wanted to share it with you:
by Robert Peterson
She was six years old when I first met her on the beach near where I live. I drive to this beach whenever the world begins to close in on me. She was building a sand castle 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.
'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 really 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 gliding 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.
'Robert,' I answered. 'I'm Robert Peterson.'
'Mine's Wendy... I'm six.'
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, Mr. P,' she called. 'We'll have another happy day.'
The next few days consisted of a group of unruly Boy Scouts, PTA meetings and an 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.
'Hello, Mr. 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 seemed unusually pale and out of breath.
'Why?' she asked.
I turned to her and shouted, 'Because my mother died!' and thought, my, why was I saying this to a little child?
'Oh,' she said quietly, 'then this is a bad day.'
'Yes,' I said, 'and yesterday and the day before and -- oh, go away!'
'Did it hurt?' she inquired.
'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 Robert Peterson. I missed your little girl today and wondered where she was.'
'Oh yes, Mr. Peterson, please come in. Wendy spoke 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 what I had just said.
'Wendy died last week, Mr. Peterson. She had leukemia. Maybe she didn't tell you.'
Struck dumb, I groped for a chair. I had to catch my breath.
'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 to say to this lovely young woman. She handed me a smeared envelope with 'MR. P' printed in bold childish letters. Inside was a drawing in bright crayon hues -- a yellow beach, 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 so sorry, I'm so sorry,' I uttered 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, and undemanding love. A gift from a child with sea blue eyes and hair the color of sand--who taught me the gift of love.
This is a true story sent out by Robert Peterson. It happened over 20 years ago and the incident changed his life forever. It serves as a reminder to all of us that we need to take time to enjoy living and life and each other. Life is so complicated; the hustle and bustle of everyday traumas can make us lose focus about what is truly important or what is only a momentary setback or crisis. This week, be sure to give your loved ones an extra hug, and by all means, take a moment... even if it is only ten seconds, to stop and smell the roses.
I wish for you, a sandpiper to bring you joy!
Patty Lewis, Music Director