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Sunday evening I decided to go to the sea and collect some sea shells for my future visits to the orphanages in Marganets and Dobromel. I like to take the different little shells for the children to experience in art projects or science class.

The last time that I went hunting for the baby Whelk and Conch shells, I found that they were in abundance in the seaweed clusters of Mussel and other shells that are freshly washed upon the beach. They are hard to see at first, but once you train your eyes to search for the particular colors and shapes, they seem to pop out at you.

This time, I found a spot by the water’s edge and sat down. As I began my search, it was difficult not to keep every pretty shell that I saw. Collecting them, sometimes a few at a time, I would put them in my little bag. I must have stayed in that one spot for almost an hour. One man came to me and asked what I was doing? Of course, I had to guess what his question was. Then I had to ask him, using my Russian words, if I understood his question. He seemed satisfied with my answer and continued on, looking for larger shells a meter or so further out in the sea.

When I decided that it was time to go, I got up and brushed my pants off. I looked around, checking the shoreline for the August evening beach lovers, and slowly walked away from the sea. In the process, I saw a little girl about five years old, standing perfectly still, holding a little red container about two or three inches deep and maybe five inches in diameter. The expression on her face was not sad or happy, but maybe one asking a question. In the exact center of her red container, there was a half of a clam shell. It was a Norman Rockwell picture for sure.

As I walked past her, I remembered my childhood days. I stopped and looked through my bag. Earlier, I had found one larger spiral shell that was the best find of my evening. I pulled it out and walked back to her, still standing motionless. I carefully put my prize shell into her little red container. She looked at me as I began to walk away and whispered in Russian, “Thank you,” without changing the expression on her face the littlest bit. As I waved goodbye to her, it was as if she couldn’t believe that someone, a stranger, gave her a nice shell. I hope that it made her day. I know that it made mine.

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