True Beauty Found Through the Eyes of a Four-Year-Old



Yesterday we went to Pawleys Island. The literal island of Pawleys. This whole area where Mom and Dad live is called Pawleys Island but the island itself is only a couple miles long and every square foot is practically covered with old beach vacation homes. Nothing else. Plantation owners used to spend the summers on this island to escape the mosquitoes.

We went to the public stretch of beach on the island to look for good shells. Mom knows where to find ’em and she kept a certain four-year-old quite busy looking for the most “beautiful” shells to take home.



You should know first off, that my kid is a collector. He has a thing for picking up random trinkets – or what I would like to call trash – and storing them in the strangest places in his bookshelf, closet, drawers, under the bed. I’m not that way. What he assigns great value to and wants to keep “forever” (his words), I desperately want to throw away.

Second thing you should know before this adventure is that my father enthusiastically volunteered that he has a whole system for bleaching the microorganisms out of those little suckers so they won’t smell and we can take them home in a jar. Thanks Dad. More trinkets. So much for the line I prepared about how the shells belong at the beach so other kids can come along and play with ’em blah, blah, blah.

So I knew all this going in, and off we go to the beach to collect shells.



It was a beautiful morning. The sun was up, but not hot. There was a cool breeze and gentle waves. And sure enough, there were lots of shells.

Mac was off like a rocket picking up everything in sight. He had very little criteria for what he was putting in Grammy’s bag or stuffing in his pocket. The only thing that really impressed him was if was a big shell, but even so, he has the tiniest shells too. The whole thing just makes you scratch your head and wonder why he was compelled to collect that one?



My mom has a knack for finding the unique ones. She can put together quite an assortment for display. She has in fact, spent the last few years down here carefully selecting the perfect ones to make up the whole of this glass jar that sits on the dresser in the bedroom where we stay.



So Mom is showing us the different kinds – oyster shells, urchin shells, etc. and suddenly, even though I’m not a collector, I too find myself picking up shells. Shocking, I know! I can’t stop selecting the perfectly shaped beige or tan color shells with bumpy outer edges and smooth inner surfaces. I like how they feel in my hands and as they rub together and they make a nice clinking noise. I can tell they are thick and tough and don’t break easily when you step on them. I start picking lots of them. And then I realize they all look the same. They are simple shells. When you picture a shell in your mind, that’s what they look like.



It’s all so striking to me that we all have such different ideas of beauty. Mac finds beauty in the experience itself. Any shell that he finds is so vastly different from anything he would find in our Texas backyard. My mom finds beauty in the uniqueness of the shells. Individually they may not look as significant as when put together they are made into something grandeur. And as for me, I like the classic, iconic shell. Ones that all look alike.

Of course I can’t help but think about the symbolism for Nathan in our shell collecting adventure. What would he look like if we were all shells on Pawley’s Island?

He’s not the same as all the others. He stands out because of his syndromic facial features and feeding pump.

He’s certainly unique, but maybe not in the way that someone would choose for a purpose of having a beautiful looking display.

But for someone who views the world as Mac does, he’s precious gold, worth picking up and keeping.

I hope that Mac keeps teaching me acceptance and worth though the way he sees life. He certainly embraces “Nafe” as he nicknamed him. And though he doesn’t tolerate his “slobber” very well, he looks for him in every single part of our family activities.

Who’s staying with Nafe? Where will Nafe sit? Nafe’s crying. Nafe doesn’t like that. Good morning Nafe. Good night Nafe.

So in a couple weeks when we pack up the car to go home, I will gladly take these shells back with us. I’m sure before long I’ll find them in the laundry baskets and kitchen cabinets. They will be a reminder of how Nafe continues to invade my life and heart. I’m starting to not be so surprised when he does something unexpected or reveals something so otherworldly about himself. His uniqueness is constantly changing my perspective on the importance of beauty and perfection. He’s my beautiful, precious shell.



I will make a man more precious than fine gold. – Isaiah 13:12

My book, Beauty in Broken Dreams: A Hopeful Handbook for the Early Years as a Special Needs Parent, is now available on Amazon!

Also be sure to check out my list of Favorite Books on Disability!

#beach #shells #vacation

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