On Labor Day my spouse Sharon and I went to Presque Isle’s Beach 1 in search of beach glass; those small broken pieces that have been washed smooth by the ebb and flow of the waves in Lake Erie. As it turned out, the glass was only the draw to get us there. I never anticipated the therapeutic and philosophical aspect of the day that was ahead.
Sharon had been talking with a coworker who enjoys collecting the glass for the purpose of making jewelry and other crafty items. So we decided to give it a go. In preparation, I turned to the ever-resourceful Google to investigate the best location around the peninsula to find the glass. Beach 1 came back as the result of my search.
We left home at 8:00 AM Labor Day morning for the hour-and-a-quarter drive to the beach, taking a bit of extra time to stop at Starbucks on the way. As it turned out, those Starbucks cups became our collection containers for the treasure hunt.
We spent an hour-and-a-half walking up the beach with our heads down, scanning the surface. Occasionally, we would stop to do a little light brushing through the surface debris, or to dig a little deeper through the sand. The result of our search was barely enough glass to cover the bottom of one cup. Most of the small pieces were clear, but we did have some brown and green glass. I kept thinking that we should find some blue glass, but Sharon advised me that her coworker said that blue glass is rare in the search and a true treasure when found.
In my normal train of thought, I would count the 1.5 hour to find just enough glass to cover the bottom of a Starbucks cup a huge waste of time. But, as I considered the bigger picture of the day, I realized that the glass was not the point. It was the time spent with Sharon, walking and talking along the beach – just spending a much-needed relaxed-pace day with her.
Along the way I would find myself pondering each piece of glass wondering, where was it created and who was involved? Who made the purchase of the completed bottle or jar? What was their story? Do they have a family? What brings them joy in life? What is their struggle? It all started feeling like a well-crafted story that drew me in.
Then a revelation hit me (hence the philosophical part of the day). We are surrounded by people everywhere we go. There are people in our neighborhoods and workplaces that we see every day and don’t truly know them. Why is that? Why do we not take the time to reach out and get to know people? Our twenty-first century default answer is, “I’m too busy.”
As hospice chaplain, I visit a lot of people who are in a weakened state and no longer can carry on a good conversation. There have been many times that I have later read their obituaries to discover how much we had in common; or I’ve contemplated how I would have loved to talk to the patient about a certain area of interest they held dear. I’ve often thought: I wish I could have read their obituary before my first visit.
Let’s not miss the opportunity to get to know each other. Make the time to reach out to a neighbor, coworker, or clerk at a business you frequent. There are beach glass treasures all around us. May we all be more intentional in building those relationships. You never know when you will come across that rare blue treasure!
Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. ~ John 15:13 (NIV)
Rev. Randy L. Kightlinger