Yesterday, a message in a bottle arrived in my mailbox (complete with postage, sand and shells from the beach, and a scroll). Apparently, you can send anything in the mail.
I have the world’s greatest sister. Every year, her family sends us a “message in a bottle” (in a recycled plastic bottle!) from their beach vacation spot. Her boys fill the bottle with tiny shells, warm sand, and a handwritten note from the sea. When my girls pull it from the mailbox, you would think they’d just struck gold.
This morning, my daughters fought over toys, begged to play a computer game, and cried at least twice each over some wrong done to them. In desperation, I ushered everybody into the kitchen and dumped the message in a bottle out onto the counter. I didn’t speak. They didn’t speak. They slowly picked up the tiny shells, began to inspect each one, and suddenly, peace like the ocean at dawn settled over the home.
Then, the questions come:
“How do they get this way, all different and perfect?”
“Where has this shell been?”
“What lived inside of it?”
“What causes the different sizes and colors?”
“Why didn’t it break when the waves crashed?”
I suppose I learned (again) that toys and computer games that don’t allow for this kind of questioning, this kind of wonder, aren’t helping my children much. It’s the same story I’ve read all summer: I have to get us all to places and objects that generate mystery, beauty, and awe. That’s the way to live with flair for our whole lives. No greed, no conflict, no suffering in the presence of something small and beautiful that we can observe with wonder.