Saturday, April 22, 2006

A walk on the beach

Just came back from two glorious days with our friends at their family beach house.
We love vacationing with these particular friends,
because they like to do what we like to do on vacation.
That which is called "nothing" by some people:
look out windows, read, eat, nap, play with the kids, take little walks.

I slept a lot and had wonderful dreams.

I did take a long-ish walk on the beach by myself today. On my way back, I had just taken a stick and pushed a crab into the receding tide, out of the reach of the gulls. I was feeling really in tune with everything and imagining the sermon I would preach one day about that starfish story. The one where the guy throws the starfish back and the sceptic scoffs, "it doesnt make a difference" and the old man asserts "it makes a difference to this one." In the sermon I was preaching in my head, I was explaining how really the one it makes a difference for is not the starfish at all, but the one who throws them back. And I was thinking how I was making a difference right now, maybe not for this crab, maybe not this time, but for myself for sure.

And then this woman stormed down the beach and, guess what? she was not there to thank me for saving the life of that crab, but to scold me for walking on the beach which, according to her, was private property. Which stunned me - both her assertion that the beach, down which people had been walking all day, was private (is that even possible? starting where?) and also her unexpected meanness. I mean, couldn't she see I was one with everything - maybe even including hergrouchyself?

I WISH I would have said "God must be heart-broken.Here you have this beautiful home, this warm sunny day, this abundant landscape to look at, and all you can notice is me walking on the beach. I will pray for you."

I didn't. I just politely walked on without saying anything about God. But it was a long walk back, and I did pray - prayed that her heart would crack open and all the meanness would gush out, prayed that God would fill her instead of meanness with admiration and gratitude and a feeling of safety and joy that would permeate every interaction. (I know you're hoping that at this point I would realize that ACTUALLY I probably need those things for myself, but this isn't that kind of story.)

I still held the stick with which I'd saved the crab - her stick, as I thought of it now. I thought I would keep her stick, and that would show her. But, of course, it wasn't mine either. So when I got back from the walk, I went out as far as I could into that lowering tide and stuck that stick deep in the sand, for the ocean to claim it on its next time around.

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