The Wall

The Wall

From Chicken Soup for the Soul Celebrating People Who Make a Difference

The Wall

The first step towards the solution of any problem is optimism.

John Baines

It was a sunny day at the beach. Young children were scattered about, playing in the sand. Different races. Different backgrounds. Different lifestyles. They didn’t know one another before that afternoon. Not until they became involved with the Wall. As I sat on the beach, I watched the drama unfold.

Somewhere out at sea, a storm gathered. The waves tossed high, gaining power. Too treacherous for swimming. Beachgoers were allowed at the water’s edge, but no farther. Children were cautioned to stay out of the dangerous currents that could pull at their small feet and young bodies and drag them into deeper waters.

One of the children began to build a sand wall. It was his intention to keep this mighty ocean away from the castle he had built by himself. He had worked on it all afternoon, and now it was being threatened by an ocean out of control. So he began working on the wall. He had very small hands and very heavy sand to carry back and forth to the wall he intended to build in front of his castle. He rushed across the beach, up and down to the water’s edge, bringing the supply of wet sand that would fortify his protective wall. For those who watched, it was clear that it was a futile enterprise that would take much longer than one person could possibly manage in a day. His castle could not survive for many more minutes with the stormy waves headed in its direction.

Another child standing nearby sensed the emergency and decided to help. The two began working together, carrying, lifting, and racing against the incoming tide. A third boy who had been watching the two joined with them, piling the wet sand on the wall, mixing it with dry to make the protective barrier stronger. A few girls passing by surveyed the castle, the growing wall, which was stretching now as many feet as there were children, and they joined in the construction. In a short time, the wall grew higher. And wider.

The working crew also expanded. More children were attracted to the wall and to the battle to preserve the castle, even though it wasn’t their castle. Though they were strangers to one another, they had a common goal, to hold back the ocean. It became the irresistible challenge.

The children laughed as they piled the sand higher and gave one another instructions. Discussions arose as to how high and how thick the wall should be and which sand was best, the wet or the dry, and how much time they had to complete their task. The waves refused to accept defeat as they beat against the barricade, adding cracks as quickly as they were mended, taking sand away as quickly as it was added.

Now it became a battle of wits and endurance between the sand-gatherers and the incoming tide. The wall symbolized something that only those involved could understand. Parents called to them that it was time to go home. “In a minute,” one answered. “Not yet,” said another. Their faces took on looks of determination. They had worked too hard for too long to give up now. Even though the whitecaps taunted them, slapping their construction around roughly, the wall held strong. Each time a wave failed to diminish its exterior, the group shouted in victory. Again and again, without mercy, the waves pounded, but the wall stood firm.

Eventually the children went their separate ways. But the wall remained upright for hours, protecting the castle, with its endurance amazing those who remained. It had come to represent much more than a pile of sand. Many children had joined together, and in that moment on the beach, I watched the impossible become possible.

Harriet May Savitz

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