Pearls: The Treasure of Our Adversity

Over the holidays, I had the pleasure of spending a lazy morning with my father-in-law, augmented with craft coffee and good conversation. For three generations, his family ran a seafood store, which serviced the Boyertown PA community. The store is no longer in business, but it’s fun to listen to him reminisce about the ‘regulars’. One of my favorites is Mary Monk, who earned her nickname from frequent monkfish orders.  Instead of leaving after paying, she would linger to spread the news of the latest conspiracy theory. “Did you hear about the Chinese? They are preparing a land invasion in America any day now through Mexico and Texas!”

Invariably, the conversation will turn to his quahog pearl collection, which was amassed by his family over years of shucking at clambakes and catering events.  They are very rare pearls found in the quahog clam, which I never heard of until my father-in-law.  He owns the largest collection of them, consisting of 64 of pearls.

He happened to have his collection with him that day, so he pulled them out for us to admire.  They are of various sizes, from tiny to large, in hues of pink, deep purple and white. It wasn’t the first time I had seen them, but every time I gaze on them I appreciate their understated elegance more and more.

 As we inspected them, we mused over the incredible process of how pearls are formed.    In mollusks, a foreign object gets into the mantle, which is the soft layer between the body and the shell.  As a defense mechanism against a possible threat, the mollusk then secretes a substance that forms a protective barrier around the irritant.  The mollusk continues to add protective
layers until eventually a pearl is formed.

The rate at which pearls grow depends on its external environment, but typically it takes 4 or more years to yield a larger pearl.    So, their size depends on the length of time they are in the shell.   The traditional, round white pearl is the most common, but they are available in a plethora of other colors and shapes.

 As we talked, I started to think about how people are like pearls.  Isn’t there a reaction that occurs within us when we encounter an  affliction? The situation may be painful at first, but over time we put on layers of character and strength.  We may become more patient, more empathetic, more humble, or less materialistic.  We may learn to speak up for ourselves or to become a better leader, friend, sister or brother.   In the end, we come out beautifully and uniquely shaped.  The longer we endure, the more resilient we become.

My father-in-law often laments that there isn’t a higher demand for the quahog pearl, that people don’t see its value.  I admit, I never used to like pearls.  However, I have gained a deeper respect for them as I have become older.  To me, they evoke quiet elegance, wisdom, and beauty.

So ask yourself, do you appreciate the beautiful pearls of character that we often see in the people who have weathered much?  Are you allowing the irritant to remain just that, or are you allowing the afflictions of life form you into your own unique pearl?

Photo courtesy of NeuPaddy via Pixabay


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