The Elusive Sand Dollar

This post originally appeared on Arkansas Women Bloggers website. 

The purple and white fragments were originally an tiny sand dollar
that crumbled into pieces in the palm of my hand.

Today is Terry’s and my 40th wedding anniversary. We’re spending it at our favorite place, Navarre Beach, Florida. As I look back over all the years our family has come to the panhandle, it’s the small pleasures like early morning walks and watching the children play in the surf that come to mind.

I usually return from my treks with several small shells in hand. I’m told the big ones end up on sandbars farther out from shore. However, one summer, people were finding an abundance of shells, large and small. Inspired by a showy collection a man had excavated from an embankment nearby, I sought out the spot to hunt for my own buried treasure. My digging turned up lots of interesting and less common specimens, but none as nice as his. I was hopeful though, and each day, I continued my search.

Tidal Pool Treasures on Navarre Beach

One morning, I stopped by a tidal pool lying directly behind our condo where I spied a small white sand dollar, glinting in the sun. The tiny orb was no larger than a quarter and flawless. A Keeper. But where to stash it? I had no pocket, and it would take ten minutes to carry it back to the condo. Ten minutes I didn’t want to burn because I had bigger things on my mind. So I dropped that perfect little sand dollar into my plastic Winn Dixie bag and continued down the beach, intent on scoring one of those big conchs. While I found some interesting medium-sized shells and added them to my sack, once again, the Big One eluded me.

To give you an idea of its size

Hot and tired, I trudged back home where I rinsed the shells, one by one. When I reached the bottom of the bag, there was no sand dollar in sight. Perhaps it was caught in a fold of the sack. When I turned the bag inside out to look, a shower of tiny granules littered the counter. My perfect little sand dollar had been crushed by all the mediocre shells I had piled on top of it. It was gone. I was crushed—and dogged by if-only thoughts. If only I’d worn shorts with pockets. If only I’d carried it back to the condo. Ten minutes didn’t seem so long, retrospectively. Every morning, I returned to the tidal pool, hoping for another prize, but to my disappointment, none appeared.

That incident happened at least four years ago, and I must admit, I’ve been searching for that elusive sand dollar ever since. Along the way, I’ve spent lots of time reflecting on my experience. Although I was surprised at the depth of my grief, I knew it reflected how foolish I felt for not appreciating and protecting that perfect little gift—which brings me to the point of this confession.

Sometimes a seemingly small but special moment or opportunity surprises us in the midst of important-feeling pursuits. When that happens, we need to recognize it and cherish the moment or pursue the opportunity because it is precious and perhaps, singular.

This year, I’ve resolved to give up my search for a replacement to that prize. Instead I’m attempting to be grateful for every little offering I encounter on the beach. My prayer has become that I’ll recognize each small blessing and when necessary, change my plans so I can truly savor the moment. I’ve learned the hard way that once it’s gone, there are no guarantees it will ever come again.

I wanted to show you how lovely that little sand dollar was, so today I purchased several at a shell store for 29 cents apiece. Twenty-nine cents—I could have bought a bowlful, but I didn’t. For how could they compare to the priceless experience of discovering that one perfect little sand dollar? But I’m not sad anymore because I learned a valuable lesson from my folly. And it’s past time for me to move on so I won’t miss the next blessing that’s sure to come along. Plus, I’m an optimist, and you never know when another little creature might wash up with the tide.  

Today, I wish you many Perfect-Sand-Dollar Moments. They are precious. Handle them with care.

Do not despise this small beginning, for the eyes of the Lord rejoice to see the work begin…
Zech. 4:10 (LB)

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