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On a perfect Sunday in Waimea on the North Shore, my friends and I pulled up to pristine turquoise waters of the bay and the sparkling sun as usual.

“I love Hawaii, but so far I haven’t found any seashells to make jewelry with,” said my artistic friend Jana, sighing as she laid back on our gigantic blue sheet. At that moment, a tiny white object in the sand caught my eye. Floppy hat in hand, I scuttled over to find a miniscule sea shell, flawless in shape.

“Jana!” I called, “Look what I found!” I yelled over. When I held up the small treasure Jana squealed with delight. “Let’s find more!” she beamed. We decided to split up and I headed for a small sand dune to our right.

As I scoured the particles of sand, I found a matching shell. And then another. And then another. I became consumed. Suddenly, a Hawaiian baby wearing bright pink sunglasses wandered over my way. I prepared to do my usual “Hello! How are you” in my gushiest baby voice, but instead I was ignored by the sassy infant. She reached down into the sand next to me and pulled out a seashell just like the ones I had been collecting. My eyes widened. How did she know what I was looking for?! “Sorry! I guess she wanted to join!” shouted her mother pleasantly as she herded over the rest of her family. Apparently, this baby girl had been watching me gather things in the sand, figured out that I was looking for seashells, and decided that she wanted to help me!

For the next few minutes, my heart melted. The baby and her 8 year old sister would pick up shells, inspect them for quality, and then hand them off to me as gifts. I couldn’t believe it. Here I was, a stranger from another continent, and this family had no hesitation hanging out with me to help me find shells.

“Hey I think I found enough. Let’s get in the water!” yelled Jana as she sprinted towards me with a handful of objects. I nodded enthusiastically and waved goodbye to my new “friends.” As we walked away from the family, I stared down and smiled at my pile of shells. I knew that every time I looked at them from now on, they would be more than just tiny objects made by the sea. They were symbols of friendship and kindness.

“So… what’d you find anyway?” Jana inquired. “Oh nothing…just some shells,” I answered, smiling, “Just some seashells.”

My favorite picture from that day.

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