The following true story serves as a reminder to all of us that we need to take time to enjoy living and life, and to love one another. Take a moment, even if it is only 10 seconds, to stop and smell the roses.



SHE was 6 years old when I first met her on the beach near where I live. I drive to this beach, a distance of 3 or 4 miles, whenever the world begins to close in on me.


She was building a sandcastle or something and looked up. “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 caring. “Oh, I don't know, I just like the feel of sand”.

       That sounds good, I thought, and slipped of my shoes. A sandpiper glided by. “That's a joy”, the child said. “It's a joy. My mummy says “sandpipers come to bring us joy.”

       The bird went gliding down the beach. “Goodbye 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.

“Ruth”, I answered. “I'm Ruth Peterson.”

“Mine's Wendy… I'm 6.”

“Hi”, 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, Mrs P”, she called. “We'll have another happy day.”


Several weeks later, I returned to the beach. As I strode along the seashore, trying torecapture the serenity I needed, the child appeared.


“Hello, Mrs 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.”

“Where do you live?” I asked.

“Over there”. She pointed toward a row of cottages.


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.


3 weeks later I went to the beach again. 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 and 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 opened the door. I introduced myself.


“Oh yes, Mrs 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 it.

“Where is she?”

“Wendy died last week, Mrs Peterson. She had leukeamia. Maybe she didn't tell you.”


Struck dumb, I groped for a chair.


“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, anything, to say to her. She handed me a smeared envelope, with MRS 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: A SANDPIPER TO BRING YOU JOY


Tears welled up my eyes, and a heart that had almost forgotten to love opened wide. I took Wendy's mother in my arms and we wept together.

The precious little picture is framed now and hangs in my study. 6 Words – one for each year of her life – that speak to me of harmony, courage, undemanding love.


A gift from a child who taught me the gift of love.


by Ruth Peterson