Saturday, July 26, 2008

Lessons from Shells

While in Florida during April, I went walking along the beach during the morning looking for something to photograph. It wasn't extremely early in the morning so most of the shells along the shoreline had been picked over by ones who had arisen earlier (the early bird gets the worm). But there were enough to look at, nothing spectacular but interesting nonetheless. As I picked up shells and examined them determining which ones I wished to keep, I began to notice something.

First, there were far fewer "perfect, goreous, unbroken" shells.

Second, the shells that were pretty on the outside were almost always plain and uninteresting" on the inside.

Third, the shells that were plain and uninteresting on the outside were pretty and interesting on the inside. By that time, I'd picked up enough to fill the pocket of my shorts.

Laying them out, I photographed some of them and in their silence they taught me a lesson. The shells are like people. There are those that that are beautiful on the the outside but once you look at their inside, you may very well find there isn't anything attractive or worth looking at on the inside. Now, true, there are a few, very few, that are beautiful inside and outside and they may have nothing broken about them. But those are few. As almost all shells have some imperfection or something broken about them, we as people are that way as well. Most of the time, if a person thinks they have it all together, they probably do not. We are all broken or hurting in some way.

The plain shells. I discovered that if I took the time to pick up the shell and turn it over, I'd find something worth noting on the inside. The shell might be pretty, have interesting structure, be colorful or unusual. But to see it, I had to take the time to stop rather than just pick it up on the fly, pick it up and examine it. I had to look for the attributes that at first were hidden (unless it was upside down).

Such as it is with people. Most people we meet are of the average kind. Most are nondescript. Most are not considered to be part of the "beautiful" people set. BUT, if each of us would take the time to examine those people, get to know them, we might discover something worth knowing about that person. We just might find something beautiful on their inside versus their outside.

I keep that handful of shells on my bedside table to remind myself of those lessons learned in nature that morning. To look beyond the exterior.

My life is richer because of that walk. I take time to discover what is inside a person and how my life might be made better by that discovery. Most of my best friends are those shells that are exquisite on the inside. Those are the "shells" I keep.

Something learned from my years of growing and aging. Maybe aging isn't such a bad thing after all (tell that to my wrinkles :)

So, maybe I have much that is interesting to share with you. Maybe you can discover something in me that can make your life richer for the living of it. You never know.

I am headed to Cape Cod soon. I wonder what the shells there will tell me? Whatever they say, I hope the their words and the time at the shore will bring healing.

Next time you find yourself with the opportunity to visit the ocean, pick up a few shells. They might teach you. Listen, you might hear more than just the sound of the ocean in them.

You might hear lessons for life.