The Sandpiper 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 child.

“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, andv 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.”

“Hi, Wendy.”

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.”

After a few days 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 needed.

“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
is.”

“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 mind was on other things. When I left for home, Wendy said it had been a happy day. 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 and  felt like demanding she keep her child at home.

“Look,  if you don’t mind,” I said crossly when Wendy caught up with me, “I’d rather  be alone today.”  She seemed unusually pale and out of breath.

“Why?” shec 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 away!”

“Did it hurt?” she inquired.

“Did what hurt?” I was exasperated with her, and 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 there.  Feeling guilty, ashamed and admitting to  myself I missed her, I went up to the cottage after my walk and knocked at  the door.

A drawn looking young woman with honey-colored hair opened the
door.

Hello,” I said, “I’m Robert Peterson. I missed your little girl today 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 no. She seemed so much better here and had a lot of what she called happy days.  But the last few weeks, she declined rapidly.”  Her  voice faltered, “she left 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 lovely young
woman.

She handed me a smeared  envelope with “MR. P” printed in bold childish letters. Inside was a drawing  in bright crayon hues — a yellow beach, 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 love opened wide. I took Wendy’s mother in my arms. “I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry,”  I
uttered over and over, and we wept together.

The precious little picture is framed now and hangs in my study.  Six words — one for each year of her life — that speak to me of harmony, courage, and undemanding love.

A gift from a child with sea blue eyes and hair the color of sand — who taught me the gift of love.

NOTE: 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 ones self 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 with many, and now I share it with
you.

May God Bless
everyone that receives this!

There are NO coincidences!  Everything that happens to us happens for a reason. Never brush aside anyone as insignificant.  Who knows what they can teach us?

I wish for you, a
SANDPIPER.

God bless
you!

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About writingmama

Sylvia McGrath ~ AKA Writingmama, a freelance writer from King City, Ontario has worked in the business field for about forty years obtaining business management experience and business writing skills. She also spent several years in social work for Children’s Services. Now retired is living her childhood dream of being a writer. A few years ago Sylvia decided to take a course in freelance writing, which she really enjoyed as it was the key to follow her dreams. Since completing the course, she has worked as a professional writer, a published poet and co-authored a book with Two Maximum Life Coaches about living with chronic illness; this is titled After The Diagnosis: The Journey Beyond.” She also co-authored an E-Book of Resources for the parents of children with special needs, chronic illness and learning challenges titled “The Treasure Chest of Resources,” part-one has already been sent to the Canadian National Library Archives. Sylvia has also written several articles on chronic illness for the following online sites. •www.suite101.com/profile.cfm/writingmama •www.helium.com/users/32475 •www.jacketflap.com/profile.asp?member=Writingmom Besides working as a freelance writer, Sylvia still finds time for two other passions of hers; to volunteer as a literacy tutor for her local Learning Centre, and assist in facilitating of workshops on disability awareness. Her main mission for the future is to write a series of books for young adults and children who have learning challenges and suffer chronic illness. At present she is also the co-owner and columnist for “Professor Owl’s Newsletter” which is published on-line monthly for children.
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One Response to The Sandpiper by Robert Peterson

  1. Barbi Longbrake says:

    This is a beautiful story! It is a true story; however, Robert Peterson did not write it. It is condensed from “Our Family” by Mary Sherman Hilbert in October 1979. I have documentation that states that she is the author and that it’s first publication was in the June, 1980 issue of the Reader’s Digest. Please spread the word or prove me wrong.

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