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I used to think that I was one of the rarest people on the earth because I had been to see the ocean. And not just that, I had swam in the ocean. As I grew older I realized that it was not so uncommon, so I stashed the memory to the back of my mind, not wanting to think of the compact mind-frame I used to have.

I pulled that memory out again, for no particular reason, and it made me smile. I could feel the warmth from the sun beating down on my feet, giving me an inevitable flip-flop tan line. I could smell the salt water rising to my nostrils as each wave inched closer and closer to where I was sitting.

It was a family trip, and I like to think it was unordinary, too, because we were in southeast Asia, I remember it was so different from anything else I had known. Usually, I suppose, the beach would be filled with people, but today, there was a storm. It hadn’t started yet, but the clouds came and went and a tropical storm is not something most people like to stick around for. However, we weren’t like other people, and I had never really appreciated our peculiarity until that day. My family stayed and we played in the water. My three siblings and I threw sand at each other, stopping at nothing, except for those brief moments when we picked up the most beautiful shells together. The sun was playing with us. It would peek out from behind the rain clouds and just when we finally felt like the storm might pass, it hid itself again.

When it started raining my mother took my youngest siblings to the shed on the beach so they wouldn’t get wet. My father, my sister, and I, however, ran in the opposite direction with the same amount of urgency. We ran to the sea.

The weather worsened as we went along, but still we stayed. It was warm in the water and we wanted nothing less than to be defeated by the rain. At that moment, with the taste of saltwater stinging my taste buds, with the sand beneath my feet dancing through my toes, I had an epiphany.

I looked out to the shore where my mother and my younger siblings stood, then I turned and gazed at the vastness of the open waters. There was no way I could even try to see the end of the ocean, and it amazed me. Remember the song, “It’s a Small World?” I saw the exact opposite. While it may seem like a small world, we actually live in a world so enormous we can’t even comprehend it. And we, each one of us, are only one person in this big world. I began thinking about what the rest of the world might be doing as I swam in the storm on the sea. I began wondering how they live, what they value, who they love. The greatness of the sea, spanning out thousands of miles, the life of earth, containing thousands of souls, the weight of the world, a burden of thousands of secrets may separate us from each other, but that should not stop us. We can see that there are others that live in dire conditions and are silently begging for help. Why can’t we help them? What is stopping us?

When the sun came out from behind the clouds, the rain stopped as if it had been driven away by the power of that great ball of fire. This is the same fire that we each carry within us and we are given countless opportunities to chase away the storm that penetrates the lives of those in need. We left the water behind us to dry off and go home, the experience was over.

I learned a lot that day, in those minutes swimming in the ocean. You never really know about the world until you experience it, just like you never really know the feeling of fear and exhilaration that comes from swimming in the ocean during a storm. The lives we live every day are only a small part of the greater picture of the life of the world. What we are destined to do, however, is to take the world in our hands and go. We are given gifts and hardship, but it is these trials and tribulations that keep us going. The truth is, we can help those in need, whether they are across an ocean or across the street. There is nothing stopping us but ourselves and that is something we can all overcome.




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