My last post was about my wonderful morning on the beach with my son...and how much he taught me with his search for sea shells. It seems that the lessons were not over. I talked about finding sand dollars and how surprised I was by their "natural" appearance. The night before we left the beach, my husband and I were packing...not just our clothes...but beach chairs and sand toys and gathering all the miscellaneous items strewn around the villa. As I picked up the bag of broken shells, I saw the sand dollars that my son and I found that morning on the beach. They looked so gross. I had done some research online and gathered instructions on how to take the ugly, hairy, brown sand dollars and make them perfect and white, but I wondered if it was worth all the effort. I also knew that I would have to put them in a ziploc bag to bring them home and dreaded the smell that would accumulate inside. Still, I promised my son that we would make them beautiful when we got home. I could not look into those brown eyes and tell him that I had left them...so I dropped them in the bag and sealed the top. When we arrived home from vacation, I took them out of the plastic bag and choked down the urge to gag as the aroma of dead fish followed. I held my nose and started the process of beautifying our sand dollars. I put a mixture of water and bleach in a bowl and dropped them in. The change was amazing to watch. Immediately...the hairy sand dollars were smooth and the brown and green began to fade. I repeated the process...knowing that if I dipped them in bleach too many times...they would become weak and break apart. Two of them disintegrated immediately. One that was especially small and gross was beautiful...perfect. The other two...one small and one large...were still slightly discolored, but mostly white. I was amazed by the beauty that was underneath all that dirt and hair. I immediately thought about how glad I was that I took the time to bring them home and clean them...glad that I endured the smell...glad that I have a little boy that still sees the good...the beauty...the potential in everything and everyone around him and that holds me to the same standard.
My amazement turned into the thought that many times, people are a lot like those sand dollars. Some people are easy to like. They are desirable...strong...beautiful...like the clean smooth sand dollars that made it through the process. There are other people that we are not naturally drawn to. They have limitations and are weak...like the sand dollars that broke when I placed them in the bleach. And still others may repulse us...they are ugly and have a rough exterior. We wonder...much like I wondered about those dirty sand dollars the night before we left...if they are worth the discomfort and time it will take to see who they REALLY are underneath all that.
I learned that people and things are not always what them seem at first glance. If we don't take the time or we are repulsed by appearances, we may never experience the joy and beauty waiting to be found. I also learned that most of my joy came from working to improve the appearance of those sand dollars. Those sand dollars mean something to me because I took the time to go through the process of cleaning them MYSELF...and through that process...and the miraculous end result...I learned some important life lessons.