Of Shells And Hidden Strengths

Well, fellow bloggers, it’s come to the end of my week at the beach. It’s a beautiful, sunny day, the waves are perfect for body-boarding, the sand is white and the breeze is blowing off the Gulf. It’s going to be hard to leave. Again. It’s always hard to leave.

One of my favorite past-times in all my years of visiting these shores is shell collecting. I love to get up early when the beach is quiet and walk along the shoreline searching for gulf treasures. I quietly pass other shell enthusiasts. We smile, nod, and lower our heads, eyes searching the sand. Occasionally I stop and look out at the waves as they crash in and gently wash over my feet. There aren’t even many shells here, and most of the pickings are quite small. Certainly you cannot find any large shells, and most of what washes up is broken. I suppose it’s the rarity of finding an unbroken shell that sends us out in the early morning to inspect the results of the tide.

Most people search for the perfect, the whole, the unblemished. Not me. I’ve collected a little bit of everything over the years. As a child, I’d keep my shells and pretty rocks in a small duffel bag I had. Sometimes I’d take them out and just admire them. Many of my favorites were broken. The thing about a perfect shell, especially a really interesting, twisty one, is that I always wondered how it was formed. For me to find broken pieces of these saltwater lovelies was a bit like finding clues to the mysteries of the ocean. I loved to see the inside of them, to see the spiraling support for the beauty of the unbroken. My uncle used to tell me not to pick up the broken pieces, to look for the whole ones. I never understood that. I always looked for the interesting, the colorful, the textured. I liked to find things that told a story. My imagination could fill in where my knowledge failed. For a kid with more imagination than knowledge, bits and pieces of colorful, broken shells were indeed treasures.

I’ve discovered over the years that we often treat people the way many people treat shells. Society likes the beautiful and unblemished. They tend to discard the broken, but often it is the broken that have the most interesting stories. Just as the inner spiraling of the shell showed the structure and support of the outer shell, a person exhibits their greatest strength in their times of brokenness. When life sends waves crashing down on us, we find out what we’re made of, and if our inner strength is solid enough, we’ll still be held together even if the outer facade is broken. Then, for anyone who is looking, the beauty in our brokenness will be revealed.

So don’t write off a person simply because they have been knocked around by life. If you learn from them, you may just be able to keep it together when the waves come crashing in on you. It’s the hidden strength that determines what’s left once the storm has passed.

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