One day the Child waked along the beach with the Old Man. As they walked together, they talked of many wondrous and profound mysteries and the Child began to grown richer in his understanding of all that was around him.
After a while, the Child fell deeper into his thoughts and grew silent. The Old Man noticed his unease and questioned him.
“What is it, Child?” He asked. “Why is it you look lost and confused? What bothers you?”
The Child paused for a moment and then turned to the Old Man.
“I understand how all this came to be,” he answered, gesturing around himself. “I understand that each tiny grain of sand is significant, that night and day infinitely dance around each other and that long after I have ceased to be, after I have lived, grown old and died, all will continue and follow the same pattern. I just don’t understand me. Who am I? How is it that I am me? Why is it that sometimes, even when amongst people, I feel alone?”
The Old Man paused for a long time before bending down and picking a small and spiralled shell from the sands beneath his feet. He handed it to the Child and instructed him to hold it to his ear.
“Listen,” he commanded. “What is it you hear?”
The Child listened carefully but all he could hear was the soft swish of captured air.
“I don’t hear anything.”He replied, disappointed.
“Nothing?” the Old Man asked, softly. “Listen again.”
The Child held the shell to his ear once more, closed his eyes and concentrated, willing himself to find meaning in the sounds. Suddenly he shouted out in excitement.
“I hear it, I hear it! It is the sea!”
The Old Man smiled. “Yes,” he replied, “It is the sea. Captured within this shell is the story of all of its journeys. It holds inside it a memory of all it has encountered, the storms that have battered it, the soft swells that have lapped it in and out of rocky pools and the weaving waves that have left it here on the sands. You are like this shell. Inside of you is an imprint of all those you have met and all you have experienced. As you continue along the journey of your life, you will have many more encounters. You will meet people who challenge you, who will force you to face up to all that frightens you. You will meet people who encourage you, who will support and teach you. Most important of all are the people who love you. They will leave inside you a warmth that will guide you and keep you safe. As long as you listen to all that is within you, you will understand yourself, you will never be alone.”
With this the Child smiled his understanding, slipped the shell into his pocket and then, hand in hand with the Old Man, he set off for home.