The value of a sand dollar? Priceless!

By Adam Glasgow - 7/28/2018

Of the many magical things about summer, somewhere on that list is the excitement of finding a sand dollar. Maybe it is the memory evoked of childhood scavenging, or the rarity of the find, or just the amazing symmetry of a perfect design in nature -- or perhaps all of those things. Last weekend it meant even more.

My son Ari and his girlfriend Micaela had joined Jordana and me for a day at a beautiful Popham Beach in mid-coast Maine. As we walked along the beach toward Spinney’s seafood restaurant for lunch, Micaela found a lovely sand dollar at the water’s edge. We headed into the restaurant talking about the special find, sitting down next to two elderly women just starting their lunch. As soon as they heard us mention the sand dollar, one of the women lit up. “Can I see it?” she asked, “I’m from Maine and I have never found one in my entire life!” We handed her the sand dollar and she examined it like it was a fine diamond. I quickly leaned over and asked Micaela in a whisper whether we should give it to her. The answer: “Of course!”

We told our lunch neighbor the sand dollar was a gift for her. It was like she had won the lottery! Just then the waitress brought her a large strawberry margarita which she immediately insisted on sharing with our table as well as introducing herself. She was Mary and her lunch partner, her sister Karen. With the exchange of gifts, our lunch had become quite festive!  As our lunch proceeded, we chatted from time to time with Mary and her sweet but quieter sister. Mary wanted to know where we were from and what we did. Interestingly, she said she knew I was a doctor before I even told her (what gave it away… I have no idea!).

Towards the end of lunch, Mary told us about some of the challenges that she had experienced in recent years – the loss of both an adult child and her husband, and about her second husband who was now at a VA facility with Alzheimer’s. But as she shared with us her pain, she held a smile on her face and kept a feisty spirit. There was no doubt she was a fighter and still saw the beauty in life, like the beauty of a simple sand dollar. We said goodbye and exchanged hugs and best wishes. And just like that, our intense and fleeting encounter was over.

As we walked back along the beach after lunch, we discussed what this exchange meant to each of us. Micaela had so selflessly shared her treasured find with someone who, unbeknownst to her, truly needed it. And in return, we received an unexpected gift (yes, more than the margarita!). We met someone who shared with us her unbending spirit while facing life’s challenges, someone who maintained positivity and wonderment at life, and someone who was willing to open up and share with complete strangers. And we were reminded that sometimes taking a risk and connecting with another soul, raises our own even higher.

That sand dollar was quite a lucky find.

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