THE BLOG
11/30/2010 02:28 pm ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Gratitude -- Becoming Again As Little Children

Looking at the world around us, much of what we see is disheartening.The rich are richer, the poor are poorer, innocent men, women and children are being killed by the thousands in a meaningless war, billions are being spent on pleasure and irrelevant projects while vital issues as health care and education are arbitrarily ignored and midst this bleak panorama, in the one area where change can occur, the climate of politics is one of hate, distrust and slander. Rome is burning.

I am a simplifier. I see the above conditions as caused by ego, the perception of I/me being better, or wanting to be more powerful than my fellow human beings. The I has replaced the we. Out of this ego springs greed, fear and separation -- the forces that fuel our approaching demise.

A passage from the ancient Sufi tradition expresses starkly what we are experiencing:

The good people will be made to suffer.
The evil people will be praised.
In this world, those who speak treacherous and deceitful words will be considered great.
Treachery and the tricks of deceitful people will rule the world.This state will come to
the world.The created world is an example for us.Creations are the cause and learning
and understanding are the effects.Understanding this is the truth and this truth is
wisdom /God.*


The following is a beautiful story which illustrates this wisdom.

The Sandpiper**

She was six years old when I first met her on the beach near where I live.I drive to this beach, a distance of three or four miles, whenever the world begins to close in on me. She was building a sand castle or something and looked up,her eyes as blue as the sea.

"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 really caring.

"Oh, I don't know, I just like the feel of the sand."

That sounds good, I thought, and slipped off my shoes.

A sandpiper glided by.

"That's a joy," the child said.

"It's a what?"

"It's a joy. My mama says sandpipers come to bring us joy."

The bird went gliding down the beach. Good-bye 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.

"Robert," I answered."I'm Robert Peterson."

"Mine's Wendy ... I'm six."

"Hi, Wendy."

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, Mr. P." she called."We'll have another happy day..."

Three weeks later, I rushed to my beach in a state of near panic. 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, misunderstanding. Wrapped up in myself, I 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 with honey-colored hair opened the door.

"Hello,"I said,"I'm Robert Peterson."I missed your little girl today and wondered where she was."

"Oh yes, Mr. 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 what I had just said.

"Wendy died last week, Mr. Peterson.She had leukemia. Maybe she didn't tell you"

Struck dumb, I groped for a chair. I had to catch my breath.

"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 to say to this lovely young woman.She handed me a smeared envelope with "Mr.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 in my eyes and a heart that had almost forgotten to love opened wide ... I took Wendy's mother in my arms."I'm so sorry, I'm so sorry, I'm so sorry," I uttered over and over and we wept together.The precious little picture is framed now and hangs in my study. Six words -- one for each year of her life -- that speak to me of harmony, courage and undemanding love.

A gift from a child with sea blue eyes and hair the color of sand-who taught me the gift of love.

Why is this story so enchanting, powerful and enriching? A bible phrase comes to mind, "Except ye become again as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of God." Wendy, as a child in purity, resided in that kingdom.She saw no evil -- she received and transmitted only love and gratitude. Ego, fear and greed were gone. At age six she knew and practiced the purpose of life, "To have a melting heart and to serve others with that heart." Perhaps we can learn from this child before it is too late.

* M.R.Bawa Muhaiyaddeen
** Robert Peterson