The radiant light of the early morning sun fell like glitter onto the sand. Pacific ocean waves crashed into the shore and receded rhythmically. Me, normally landlocked in Dallas, walking the Santa Monica beach at 6am, what a gift! Alone save for a homeless man asleep under newspapers and a runner sprinting towards me, growing more distinct with each stride. Smiling, I threw my arms wide and twirled, embracing the moment.
Walking, my eyes scanned the beach searching for treasure from the sea, finding only barrenness or human refuse. Disappointment tripped a switch and my mind began to compare this beach to the beaches in Oregon. In Oregon I would have found armloads of sea shells, driftwood, rocks and starfish by now, I thought. Nothing in Santa Monica except used needles, seaweed, and pebbles too small to bother with. Disgusting beach. Comparison and judgment flooded my thoughts. I walked beside the sea oblivious to my surroundings; focused on what wasn’t there – no sea shells, no drift wood, no starfish, no rocks. My feet kept moving. My mind kept chattering. Yards and yards of not seeing, not being present. Until…
something stopped me in my tracks. My eyes refocused. My mind returned to the present moment. I looked around bewildered and realized I, normally landlocked in Dallas, was walking the Santa Monica beach, what a gift! “I’m sorry,” I prayed, “I am grateful to be here. Thank you.” The runner, mere feet in front of me now, paused to look at me as he passed. “Good morning, “ I called. Suddenly, at my right toe, I saw a rock the size of a plum half buried in the sand. As I gazed at it, I judged it as ugly and walked on. “It doesn’t matter that there’s no ocean treasure on this beach,” I shared with God, “I’m just happy to be here.” Inside my head, I heard “I gave you a rock.”
Oh, right, the rock I labeled ugly. Oops. I turned on my heel and went in search of the rock, walking slowly, head bent, eyes scanning the sand ahead of me. “I’m sorry. I didn’t realize. Please help me find the rock.” I didn’t see it and feared it was lost to me. My spirit ebbed. “I’m trying, God. Help me see.” I plopped down on the sand, frustrated. Leaning back, my hand brushed a hard object. I jerked it away quickly fearing it was human refuse and leapt to my feet. Looking down, I spied the rock – pale grey with striations of pink and black – nothing spectacular really except if was my gift from God. I pried it out of the sand and flipped it over in the palm of my hand only to reveal it’s secret – a nature-etched heart shape raised millimeters from the rock’s surface – my reminder from God – “Do not be fooled by appearances. Treasures come in unlikely guises.” This I believe.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.