Franciscan Spirit Blog

Rebuilding Our Sandcastles

On a beach near the ocean, two very young children spend their afternoon enthusiastically building a sand castle. They work eager, unabashed, and wholehearted. Giggles and laughter fill the air. After they finish, they admire their handiwork. Focused, they do not notice the rising tide. In an instant, a wave flattens their castle. Joy drains from their faces, tears run freely, and delight turns to disbelief and sadness. All their effort. Gone.

If we had been watching, we would certainly feel their pain and wonder, no doubt, how they would handle the disappointment. Surely, their day is over. To the surprise of one bystander, after a few minutes of tears and distress, the children grab one another’s hand and run up the beach, where they begin to build another sand castle.

We all have high tides, and waves that take out sand castles in our lives (be it dreams or plans or expectations or even hope). Watching the children run up the beach, it occurs to the bystander that the people who do make it (the people who endure and carry on) are those with a hand to hold. The children found solace, renewal, and confidence in the sanctuary of connection—a place where they knew they were safe. And embraced. And the sacrament of the present comes alive in that sanctuary.

Life happens. Sand castles flatten. And there’s a part of me that needs to make sense of it all. I am certain that I would still be sitting in the sand near what used to be, shouting to the sky, “How could this happen…to me?!?” Before I can move on, I want to make sense of the waves and my rotten luck. Of course, the result isn’t exactly what I had in mind. Instead of clarity, I become sad. Cautious. Afraid. Stuck. As long as I see only the misfortune and inconvenience, the flattened sand castle defines me. So, I buy this label, this new version of reality.

The good news? The children in this story were not undone by scarcity (or depletion or sadness). They went about their day as if sufficiency were their reality. And because it was their paradigm, in their vulnerability and awkwardness, they built a new sand castle.

I love this story. And whatever that is, I want it. OK, maybe it’s not a new sand castle. But it is a new moment, a gift, a beacon of hope. Telling us that even in our vulnerability and awkwardness, we have the sufficiency to (we have the capacity to, we are wired to) risk, try, give, care, contribute, stand up, hold a hand, build another sand castle. Life is precarious, and sometimes it is more than just sand castles that are flattened. We live in a world where bombs are real.

Seeking Beauty

Sadly, they feel too common. In April 2015, a car packed with explosives detonated in the busy Mansour district of Baghdad, killing at least ten people and injuring twenty-seven. After this incident, something very unusual happened. Karim Wasfi went to the bomb site, took out his cello, sat down on a chair amid ash and rubble in a black suit, his long hair combed back, and started to play. Why go to the site of a car bomb to play your cello?

Wasfi, the renowned conductor of the Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra, said simply, “The other side chose to turn every element, every aspect of life into a battle and into a war zone. I chose to turn every corner of Iraq into a spot for civility, beauty, and compassion. I wanted to show what beauty can be in the ugly face of car bombs, and
to respect the souls of the fallen ones.”

We know that when he played, soldiers cried. People kissed. They clapped, they felt alive, they felt human, and they felt appreciated and respected. This does not surprise me. When I watched, I cried too. Because it touched something deep inside me. An invitation to live wholehearted in a broken world. And the power of having a hand to hold. No one is on this journey alone.

Let us walk one another home.

This is an excerpt from Terry Hershey’s new book This is the Life, about embracing life’s present moments. Click the image below to learn more.

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