By Robert Peterson
She was six years old when I first met
her on the beach near where I live. I drive to this beach, a
distance of three or four miles, whenever the world begins to close
in on me. She was building a sand castle or something and looked up,
her eyes as blue as the sea.
"Hello," she said.
I answered with a nod, not really in the mood to bother with a small
"I'm building," she said.
"I see that. What is it?" I asked, not really caring.
"Oh, I don't know, I just like the feel of sand."
That sounds good, I thought, and slipped off my shoes.
A sandpiper glided by.
"That's a joy," the child said.
"It's a what?"
"It's a joy. My mama says sandpipers come to bring us joy."
The bird went gliding down the beach. Good-bye joy, I muttered to
myself, hello pain, and turned to walk on. I was depressed, my life
seemed completely out of balance.
"What's your name?" She wouldn't give up.
"Robert," I answered. "I'm Robert Peterson."
"Mine's Wendy... I'm six."
She giggled. "You're funny," she said.
In spite of my gloom, I laughed too and walked on. Her musical
giggle followed me.
"Come again, Mr. P," she called. "We'll have another happy day."
The next few days consisted of a group of unruly Boy Scouts, PTA
meetings, and an ailing mother. The sun was shining one morning as I
took my hands out of the dishwater. I need a sandpiper, I said to
myself, gathering up my coat.
The ever-changing balm of the seashore awaited me. The breeze was
chilly but I strode along, trying to recapture the serenity I
"Hello, Mr. P," she said. "Do you want to play?"
"What did you have in mind?" I asked, with a twinge of annoyance.
"I don't know. You say."
"How about charades?" I asked sarcastically.
The tinkling laughter burst forth again. "I don't know what that
"Then let's just walk."
Looking at her, I noticed the delicate fairness of her face.
"Where do you live?" I asked.
"Over there." She pointed toward a row of summer cottages.
Strange, I thought, in winter.
"Where do you go to school?"
"I don't go to school. Mommy says we're on vacation."
She chattered little girl talk as we strolled up the beach, but my
on other things. When I left for home, Wendy said it had been a
Feeling surprisingly better, I smiled at her and agreed.
Three weeks later, I rushed to my beach in a state of near panic. I
was in no
mood to even greet Wendy. I thought I saw her mother on the porch
like demanding she keep her child at home.
"Look, if you don't mind," I said crossly when Wendy caught up with
rather be alone today." She seemed unusually pale and out of breath.
"Why?" she asked.
I turned to her and shouted, "Because my mother died!" and thought,
My God, why was I saying this to a little child?
"Oh," she said quietly, "then this is a bad day."
"Yes," I said, "and yesterday and the day before and -- oh, go
"Did it hurt?" she inquired.
"Did what hurt?" I was exasperated with her, with myself.
"When she died?"
"Of course it hurt!" I snapped, misunderstanding,
wrapped up in myself. I strode off.
A month or so after that, when I next went to the beach, she wasn't
Feeling guilty, ashamed, and admitting to myself I missed her, I
to the cottage after my walk and knocked at the door. A drawn
young woman with honey-colored hair opened the door.
"Hello," I said, "I'm Robert Peterson. I missed your little girl
and wondered where she was."
"Oh yes, Mr. Peterson, please come in. Wendy spoke of you so much.
I'm afraid I allowed her to bother you. If she was a nuisance,
please, accept my apologies."
"Not at all -- she's a delightful child." I said, suddenly realizing
that I meant what I had just said.
"Wendy died last week, Mr. Peterson. She had leukemia.
Maybe she didn't tell you."
Struck dumb, I groped for a chair. I had to catch my breath.
"She loved this beach, so when she asked to come, we couldn't say
She seemed so much better here and had a lot of what she called
But the last few weeks, she declined rapidly..." Her voice faltered,
something for you, if only I can find it. Could you wait a moment
while I look?"
I nodded stupidly, my mind racing for something to say to this
woman. She handed me a smeared envelope with "MR. P" printed in bold
childish letters. Inside was a drawing in bright crayon hues -- a
a blue sea, and a brown bird. Underneath was carefully printed:
A SANDPIPER TO BRING YOU JOY.
Tears welled up in my eyes, and a heart that had almost forgotten to
opened wide. I took Wendy's mother in my arms. "I'm so sorry, I'm so
I'm so sorry," I uttered over and over, and we wept together. The
picture is framed now and hangs in my study. Six words -- one for
of her life -- that speak to me of harmony, courage, and undemanding
A gift from a child with sea blue eyes and hair the color of sand
-- who taught me the gift of love.
This is a true story sent out by
Robert Peterson. It happened over 20 years ago and the incident
changed his life forever. It serves as a reminder to all of us that
we need to take time to enjoy living and life and each other. The
price of hating other human beings is loving oneself less.
Life is so complicated, the hustle and bustle of everyday traumas
can make us lose focus about what is truly important or what is only
a momentary setback or crisis.
This week, be sure to give your loved ones an extra hug, and by
all means take a moment ... even if it is only ten seconds, to stop
and smell the roses.
This comes from someone's heart, and is read by many and now I share
it with you...