Beauty in the Broken

Pure joy can be found in the tiniest of things.

A week ago, my family and I escaped the dreary, cold Midwest Spring and trekked down to sunny Florida. For the most part, it was pretty relaxing and just so nice to enjoy the sun for a few days. Unfortunately, on the last half of the trip, my son got pretty sick so we were basically stuck at our rental house. Thankfully, it had a pool, and honestly I didn’t even mind too much as I just got to drink my High Noons and read my books. But on the last day, my husband took our middle daughter on a bike ride to the beach. My youngest still has not mastered riding a bike so she couldn’t go. She was pretty sad as she adores hunting for sea shells (and I really do too!) She’s not a fan of walking a lot and most days ends up complaining if I take her around our neighborhood loop, which is roughly one mile. However, after some tears and serious convincing on my part, she caved and decided she was up for walking the two miles to the beach. Full disclosure – I never in a million years thought she’d make it and was mentally preparing myself to be ready to make the dreaded call to my husband to come pick us up. But after a few gentle warnings that there was to be no complaining because we were on an adventure and it was going to be fun (come hell or high water), we took off to the beach.

We had a few hiccups along the way, but overall I think those 45 minutes we spent together was my favorite part about our entire trip. My youngest likes to ”chit chat” as she calls it, and she never stopped talking for a second. We discussed our favorite music and made up songs, she told me how she was going to be a teacher and a chef when she grows up. We decided she would call her restaurant ”Evelyn’s Eatery.” We discussed the moral lessons (all her ideas) behind the classic ”Three Billy Goats Gruff” and literally about a million other random thoughts that ran through her inquisitive and kind of strange little brain.

When we finally got to the beach, we both immediately started looking all around trying to find the next treasure. After awhile I noticed that I was focused on finding only perfect shells, whereas she was loving all of them. At one point she held up a small, mostly broken shell and said to me, ”I know you like the whole ones, Mom, but even this broken one is beautiful.” I agreed, but then instructed her to throw it back, because we couldn’t keep them all. I didn’t think much about it at the time but I began paying more attention to her scavenging and noticed how she took in all the minute details of each shell. One that she found had some pink and green (which my husband told her was algae) but she loved the color combination and even named that shell “Watermelon.” She didn’t care that it was algae, all she saw was the beautiful coloring. Even the tiniest shells that were the size of a pencil eraser, she thought they were the most beautiful things and wanted to keep them all.

Comparing her sea shell hunting strategy (or lack thereof) with mine (only wanting the biggest and the best) made me sad. When did I lose the ability to find beauty in the broken? Is this just something we outgrow as adults? And if so, why? I was grateful for that opportunity to be able to essentially see the world through her eyes. As humans we’re all broken in one way or another, because that’s just life, but sometimes getting broken is the only way to actually become whole. It’s more about the journey than the end result. With every hiccup we encounter or each time a little piece of us is broken, it doesn’t make us any less worthy, less beautiful; if anything it makes us more so. Because it means we’ve lived, and what can be more beautiful than that?

In a few short weeks (sigh…) I will have made one more trip around the sun. And thanks to the wisdom of my six year old, this year my goal is to see things more like how she does and to find the beauty in the broken. As with every year, I know there will be disappointments, things that make me sad or angry, and while I may not be able to appreciate them, I hope I’m at least able to respect what they teach me. And to know that through these broken moments in my life is how I will continue to evolve into hopefully a better, more beautiful (metaphorically speaking, of course as mirrors are not my friend) person.