Life Can Be Beautiful
By Bill Shepard
Life can be beautiful, you and the one that gave it can make it so! Yes, it can be ugly, mean, and seemingly unfair, but it can be a beautiful experience! Good or bad, ugly or beautiful, long or short, it has an ending, and the life we live and the one we planned to live is not always the same. However, if we make the right choices, life can be beautiful!
Many years ago I was driving on my first trip to Florida since being there during World War 2. That was before there were interstate highways. I was traveling along highway 301 and somewhere down in south Georgia. I began to see billboards that read – Visit Okefenokee Swamp. I gave no thought of wanting to visit that place. I recalled things that I read about that place and how the Indians referred to it as the “land of the trembling earth.” I read about how treacherous it was and that people had been known to enter that wilderness and never be seen again. The picture I carried in my mind of the Okefenokee Swamp was ugly and fearful, I had no desire to visit it.
As I continued on my trip, having lost my way a time or two, I saw a sign that read Swanee River ahead. A different picture now played through my mind! I recalled a song that Stephen Foster wrote and made popular, “Way Down Upon the Swanee River.” I began to hum the tune as we drove along the highway. In 1955 traveling could be more pleasurable than now, there wasn’t as many folk and cars on the highway as there are today.
As we neared the bridge that crosses the river, I parked the car and we scrambled out and headed for the bridge. We felt safe as there was very little traffic. It would be hard to imagine anyone doing that today. My wife and I leaned against the rails of the bridge and drank in the beauty that was before us. The midmorning sun was casting its rays of sunlight on the water of the river causing what appeared to be pearls dancing on the water’s surface. The beauty was silencing, not a word was spoken. The thought kept surfacing that this beautiful river passed through the Okefenokee Swamp! The words were forming in my mind, “Out of the beauty came the beauty!” How can such a thing be? I asked myself. I would find the answer many times in the years ahead, God, you and I can make it happen!
I have witnessed lives that were shredded with pain, misery, and disappointments, being transformed into lives of beauty and usefulness many times. I have seen the ugly changed to beauty in unbelievable ways! I have witnessed it in my own life!
There is no better story than that of Helen Keller to prove my point. Blind, deaf, and mute, yet millions around the world have been inspired by reading that story.
There are many stories I could write but time nor space will not allow it.
I must mention that of Franklin Roosevelt who became President of the United States of America during one of the ugliest times in history. I and some readers can recall that period. America was in the grip of the Great Depression! Starvation stalked the land, jobs were hard to find, and the government was unable to help. I recall sitting by our small radio and listening to Mr. Roosevelt deliver some of his fireside chats, encouraging the nation that “all we had to fear was fear itself.” Only a few close friends and acquaintances could know that the President was speaking while sitting in a wheelchair. Stricken by polio, he had been left a cripple, but instead of giving up, he had chosen to live a life of usefulness. Then came World War 2, and he guided our nation through that dark period of its history. At its end America came forth as the leader of the free world….Out of the ugly and painful came forth beauty.
Years ago when I was speaking at a church, I told the story of how an oyster changes a grain of sand into a beautiful pearl. You probably know that story. At the close of that service and elderly man approached and spoke, “Bill, I have a grain of sand, what should I do!” My answer was, “You and God can make it a pearl!” In a few weeks I learned the man had died. I really believed his grain of sand had been changed to a thing of beauty.
Have you been given a grain of sand? If so, what are you doing with it? Remember, you and God can change it to a thing of beauty- Life Can Be Beautiful!
Next time, Bill Shepard
Mr. Shepard is a native of Darlington, S.C., and a current resident of Piedmont, S.C. He is the author of “Mill Town Boy” and “Bruised”. He has been sharing his tales of growing up in Darlington for decades, and we are delighted to share them each week. His mailing address for cards and letters is: Bill Shepard 324 Sunny Lane, Piedmont, S.C. 29673.