Off the Bench: Sand dollars star in a vignette about love

By James W. Dolan
Special to the Reporter

An older couple was walking along Tigertail Beach on Marco Island recently when they saw a woman in a bathing suit holding a small cloth bag and looking forlorn as she stood at the edge of the inlet. “What seems to be the problem,” she was asked. The woman said she was on vacation and hoped to search for sand dollars on the beach across the inlet but was afraid to cross to the other side.

What once was a sandbar at Tigertail Beach is now overgrown with vegetation. To get to the ocean one must wade about 60 yards across a brackish inlet and walk another 100 yards through mangroves to get to a pristine beach. The woman’s husband and friends had already crossed, but she was reluctant to walk in the waist-deep water.

Seeing her plight, my companion said, “I’ve been coming here for many years and have accumulated a large collection of sand dollars and would be happy to give you some.” She told the woman she lived nearby and would leave them on a bench next to her front door for her to pick up when she was heading back. The woman was delighted.

For the uninitiated, like myself, a sand dollar is what remains of a sea creature often found on the beaches of Southwest Florida. The fragile shells are hard to spot in the sand and are valued for their delicate beauty. They resemble silver coins, thus the name.

Later that afternoon, the sand dollars were gone from the bench. The next day, the homeowner went to her mailbox and found a thank you note, addressed simply to “Kind Lady.”

Such acts of kindness often go unnoticed in this day and age when the mangroves of strife and discord have overtaken the beach. Yet they are there in abundance, if you only take the time to look for them.

Like sand dollars, acts of kindness are imperceptible expressions of love. They are generosity’s manifestation – unsolicited, unrewarded, instinctive, and sublime. They are what makes humanity noble even in hard times.

To be alert to those in need,
To offer comfort with a deed,
May not seem important stuff,
But oftentimes it is enough.

James W. Dolan is a retired Dorchester District Court judge who now practices law.