See Life

Even though a shell is just the hard outer layer that is meant to protect the animal that lives in it, the hunt for the perfect seashell is a beach standard. On most trips to the beach people go to the edge, put their feet in the water, and look down. They see shells being washed up right at their feet. Before they have time to do an appropriate survey of which shells are the best for keeping, the surf whisks them right back out into the ocean. Sometimes people get lucky and snag a shell before the inevitable happens. If it is a perfect specimen, they feel fortuitous. More often than not the shells that wash up are broken. Shells that are shards of what they were. And when you think about it, shells are just shells in the first place. They are incomplete compared to what they once were: a living being. Now, they are just what remains after the life is swept away.

Humans have shells too, but much different kinds of shells than marine life. Human shells are intended so that no one can do damage to the insides. People do things that hurt our feelings and make us feel less than human. We wear our shells to protect us from those things. Our shell might have too much makeup, it might take illegal substances, or it could make a joke out of anything that hurts. Just like seashells, this does not always protect us. Sometimes what is inside dies. Sometimes we just can’t ensure and all we have left is a shell. We all endure hardships. Some endure tragedies. But when we are left with a shell, things get complicated. Humans might push people away because the ultimate fear of a “shell person” is that someone might get too close and discover that what was once in them withered up and died. Human shells serve as a distraction to the real problem.

This trip to the beach I wasn’t worried about the perfect shell. I wanted to find the prettiest shell. I discovered that the prettiest shells weren’t whole shells. The prettiest shells were the broken ones. Those shells probably had more of a story to tell than those shells that were still mostly intact. The broken shells had learned lessons that the whole shells hadn’t learned. Those shells had “lived.” People are just like those shells. By dismissing the people that might not have the prettiest past, or have made mistakes, you miss out on the greatness of life. The greatness of humans is that we all don’t lead a cookie cutter existence. Instead we help others by spreading light into a path that you might not have crossed otherwise. People are made great by their stories. People are made great by being broken and living to tell those stories.

A seashell can’t tell a story to us, but it can teach us to look beyond faults. We can look past the cracks in other people and see who they really are. When we can do this, I like to think that unlike the sea counterparts, the shells that are human can come back to life. They can start loving and living again. See potential. See the light. See life.

How Minecraft Is Just Like Real Life

This week I made my way out of my comfort zone and decided to play the one thing the kids constantly play if given screen time with an iPad or iPhone: Minecraft. I knew that it was a good game, and I knew it taught my kids valuable lessons. If they didn’t want to get off the couch, then I was going to join in their world and let them teach me a thing or two. What I didn’t anticipate was a game reminding me of a few things about life. Here are a few ways Minecraft is just like real life.

1. There is always safety in numbers. Creepers are everywhere, but if you stay together you can fight any battle and come out victorious. We like to think that there aren’t bad guys lurking around every corner like in a video game, but when that becomes true, sticking together is a smart tactic and nothing bonds you like fending off a creeper.

2. Sometimes you are holding everything you need to make something awesome; you just have to work at it. Too often we think if we just had one more thing, everything would be perfect. Just like in Minecraft, sometimes you have to change the way you are looking at what you have, instead of changing what you have. But let’s be honest. Sometimes you might just be missing something important. Then you just have to set off and find it.

3. If you spend all your time tearing things down you don’t have time to build anything worthwhile. The first time I played I kept gathering materials. To gather materials in Minecraft you have to basically tear them apart and collect them. I spent probably two days and two nights gathering materials. My son said, “What have you built?” I hadn’t built anything at that point. When I confessed this he said, “Well, why work so hard if you aren’t building anything helpful?” And that was a great question.

4. Finding a diamond requires a lot of digging through dirt. Most of the time it requires digging down to the bedrock and making your way back up a little at a time. My kids are always looking for diamonds. Item value is a little subjective since the items you value are typically the items you need at that moment unless diamonds are involved. They are the prizes that can build armor to crush any creeper out there. Finding them is hard work, but I have noticed that once you find one you feel pretty awesome. So, sometimes it’s worth it digging through all that dirt and hitting rock bottom because sometimes you get diamonds. For adults, that might be a person, a place, or a thing. Whatever it is you’ll be glad you dug.

5. You can never spread too much light. Leave a torch wherever you go, and your path will always be lit. When I first started playing I would make torches and leave them like Hansel and Gretel to help me find my way back home. When it would get dark I could still see everything I needed to see. Spreading light can rarely be a bad thing. If we spent as much time spreading light as we did playing video games, I bet this would be a much better world to live in.