|Clouds quietly build in the afternoon sky, haze at sunset hides the horizon and signals that the storm is close. Wind casts the waves onto the shore.
And the waves, they grab the sand, as if trying to escape the inevitable return to the deep. Then slowly, they slide back, as new row of waves attempts the same feat. In the evening their resolve to climb the shore to its summit is apparent. And the tide comes in.
As he searches for unusual shells, I find a dress on sale and take it to the register.
“This is not marked ‘on-sale’ but it was on the sale rack,” I begin, “is it the same price as the others?”
With a heavy accent that smothers his broken English, he asks me to tell him the price.
To my delight he charges me the price I quoted from the rack! Then placing the dress in a colorful bag reserved for expensive purchases, he smiles and hands me the bag.
Really looking at him, I am seeing past his ruddy olive skin and hair the color of ink. I look at his eyes. There is something…
From a gold chain, a small Star of David leans toward his heart.
“Are you from Israel?” I extend my arm to grasp the handles of my new treasure.
“Yes, I am here – two months.”
Now my curiosity is roused. “ Are you here on vacation?”
“I visit daughter – this time each year- help with shop.” He replies in broken English.
He continues his story. He had another who lived in Destin, but had died several years ago, on the 29th of March. Each year he returns to this area, a pilgrimage to remember and pay tribute to her life.
“I’m so sorry for you loss”, I whisper. I feel like I am in a sacred place with him and maybe I should not be here.
His eyes tear and he holds his chest trying to find the words.
I step toward the counter, “I know, your heart…your heart breaks still.”
Emotions are battering his heart, like wind driven waves against the shore outside. Driven by a storm that is not ready to be still – grasping to hold onto something that cannot be held. And the sorrow has hazed his horizon.
“I love that you come and celebrate her life each year; that is beautiful,” again my voice is a soft breathe of words.
I want to say something more. I want to remove his sorrow; I want to tell him about Christ walking on water and calming the storm, and that He can calm the sea of sorrow in that breaking heart. But no words come.
Doc walks up with his shell collection and smiles, greeting both of us.
As we walk out the door, I turn around and look at the man. He is watching us leave.
I gently wave, “Toda, Shalom” (thank you, peace)
He nods and smiles, “Shalom”
Saint Frances of Assisi once wrote,
“Preach the Gospel at all times, use words if necessary.”
We return back through the wind and surf, with my mind whirling, wondering if I had done all, or said all that was needed.
I may never know, this side of heaven.
Sometimes, it is not about preaching the Word that is important; it is about showing the love. It is about becoming less about yourself and more about what God is doing around you.
Doc puts his arm around me and pulls me closer as we walk through the waves crashing onto the shore.