By Joe Rector

One of the best things about the beach is hunting seashells. Over the years, I collected enough to make a table that weighs just slightly under a ton and a bedside lamp that is much lighter. Bags of the things are tucked away in cabinets and boxes both inside the house and in our storage building. Amy has threatened me with legal action if I dare to bring home one more thing that the ocean has regurgitated onto the sands of our vacation destination.

I just can’t help myself. Something about shells fascinates me. I love the shapes of them, the colors on both sides, and their delicacy. On our 25th anniversary, Amy and I traveled to Hollywood Beach, Florida, and I dug out a small conch shell that sits prominently on a shelf in my office. By the way, that was one shell that Amy allowed me to haul back to Knoxville without even a frown.

What I never collect are shells with broken edges. Neither am I a fan of the bits of shells that wash up from the ocean after they’ve been pummeled. Doing so would require too much effort to collect enough to fill a lamp or design a table top. More than likely, Amy would have refused to pack a bag of scraps with our luggage that would be beaten and banged by airlines or knocked cock-eyed as I tried to fit all of our items into the car. So, I ignore the little fragments and continue to look for the real prizes that might lie just a few feet down the beach.

That made me think of how too many of us, and yes, I include myself, treat other humans. We spend our time looking for the right folks who will make our lives perfect. You know what I mean. Too often, we turn our heads away or our noses up when we encounter individuals less fortunate. They are trying to survive, just like the rest of us. However, times might have been hard or mistakes might have taken them down different roads, ones that lead to homelessness, loneliness, or complete despair.

Just like those broken pieces of shells lying on the beach, some of us overlook people or walk around them and pursue something more appropriate. We all want the best for ourselves and our families. However, that doesn’t mean we have to turn our backs on those in the world who are broken or imperfect in our opinions.

We can afford to ignore the “crumbs” of shells on the beach, but that isn’t so in our dealings with fellow humans. The good lord who placed all of us on this planet expects much more. Our helping others is demanded, and scripture tells of when we do it for the least of these that we do it for the Him.

The other things to remember is that each of us is in some way broken. If that is so, then others can turn from us in the same way we shun folks. This world, right now, this very minute, demands of us to open our arms to all people. If we don’t, I’m afraid that the future is bleak for the human race. Perhaps we who are older won’t see the negative effects of snubbing the broken, but our children and grandchildren certainly will. That’s not a legacy I want to leave behind.

From now on, I think I might just take a bit more time looking at the beauty of those broken pieces of shells that are scattered along the sand. At the same time, I’ll try to do a better job of understanding and accepting those people who are broken in some way. With a little luck, doing so might make the world a better place for the entire human race.