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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 sandcastle
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, and turned to walk on.

I was depressed, my life seemed
completely out of balance.

"What's your name?"
She wouldn't give up.

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?" 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 away!"

"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 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:

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 muttered 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, 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 shared 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
Who knows what they can teach us?

Many a good deed is better
than the greatest