During my career I have traveled extensively and attended a great number of educational conferences. This has allowed me to meet many wonderful educators, students, authors, speakers, and one priest.
The priest was a presenter at one of the conferences I attended. He was a presenter but we had the opportunity to take a walk together on the local beach. We talked at length about his life experiences and mine. His travels and my hope for future travels. I spoke of my worries and uncertainties about raising my three sons as a single mom. And we shared a joke or two.
But it was in those shared moments of silence that I learned the most. We reveled in the tang of the salty ocean air. We listened to the call of the gulls and the incessant thrumming of waves against the shore. I remember the iridescence of the sand in the afternoon light was dazzling.
At one point in those moments of silence, I noticed the priest turning something over and over in his fingers. I asked about it. He opened his hand flat to reveal a stone. To me, it looked like any ordinary stone but to him it was so much more.
You see, throughout his life he had picked up stones from various places around the world and he began polishing them with his fingers. By repeatedly rubbing the stone and turning it over and over in his fingers for days, months and years, the once jagged edges became rounded and smooth. He related that this was a worry stone and he had created many of them in his life. He explained that worries could be dealt with more readily when in possession of a worry stone. For, the repetitive action of human fingers on a piece of nature could bring calmness and clarity.
He asked me to open my hand. He placed that worry stone in my palm and asked me to close my fingers around it.
“This is your worry stone now,” he said. “When you feel troubled, worried, unsure or anxious about something, remember to hold this stone and make its edges even smoother than they are now. And, if you know someone who is going through a tough time, give them this stone to help ease their worries. Then, pick up another stone and start creating a new worry stone.”
I gave that first stone to a friend a few years later and started creating a new worry stone. I am now in the midst of creating my fourth worry stone.
I don’t know if it is the repetitive action of smoothing out a stone’s rough edges with fingers, the calm words the priest shared with me, or something in the subconscious that wants me to believe the worry stone will help – but help it does.