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I wish for you, a sandpiper.

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Warning: Get out your tissues before reading this! 


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, and 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."


The next few days consisted 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 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 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 read with many
and now I share it with you…


May God Bless everyone who 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.




19 responses »

  1. It did my tough guy image no good at all for me to sit at my desk crying this morning. You ripped my heart out with this. Robert\’s message is clear, tomorrow is promised to no one so live each day as if it is a precious gift. thanks for the prospective adjustment.
    Have a Sandpiper day!

  2. Man, I HATE crying at work. Damn.
    But you know, we all need those messages reminded to us every now and then. thanks.

  3. I started reading this a half hour ago … then got busy here at home on things .. so I\’ll have to come back to read the rest. Off I run ..
    Hey, I changed my site!!  Thank you for helping with it!!

  4. Thanks for the tissue warning at the front.  Last thing I need right now is something sad to read.  So I didn\’t.  But I still wanted to wish you a happy day~

  5. I\’m sitting at my desk crying. I should ahve waited to read this until I got home… you even warned us. This is a beautiful story. Thank you for sharing!

  6. That was a very nice story.  The tissues are always by my side because of my allergies, no warning was needed for me.
    OOOH…YES, there is a difference in the taste of beers.   IF I ever have another beer tasting contest, I\’ll be sure to send you an invite!

  7. What a great story. Thanks for sharing it.
    I need to go find a sandpiper. Do you think a robin would do?

  8. Thank you.

  9. What a lesson for us all.  My eyes are wet, my heart is broken!

  10. What a great story…Sandpipers are my favorite shore birds…such little feet, and always on the move.
    We just never know…do we?  Count your blessings daily.

  11. I\’m going to Ft. Walton and then on to the Sarasota area.  I\’m scared on the new Live spaces–seems like things are going to get cluttered up.

  12. YAB - YA Blog at the Independence Public Library

    I read this before, and I still cry!  Lessons are sometimes difficult to learn…
    Thanks for the reminder!

  13. I cired when I read this, Wendy…how unbelievably moving…..

  14. What a powerful story…and the meaning behind it is so important.  We all must remember to allow time for the little things in life that make us happy.

  15. Wow .. it\’s a profound lesson – you just never never know who your effecting and how.  🙂
    (btw – it\’s not a new job I have, its the same one… I just meant that it\’s hard to blog all the time because life is so busy).
    Have a great weekend!!!

  16. Dang – well, that was a bit sad.  I was able to ward it off as I\’ve heard worse, so in that respect, it was a great story.  I used to think little kids were a pain until I had one – your views quickly change after that.  Thank you for posting this!

  17. Beautiful Wendy. I remember the first time I read this story. It took some time to collect myself. So powerful and so true. Enjoy life.

  18. *sob* I\’ve read this before but it always makes me cry.
    Thank you for sharing it.
    I love your space .. I have to find some more tissues and then I\’ll be back to read more.

  19. Dang!!  What a story!  But how true it is. <as I wipe my eyes>


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