Whether life grinds you or polishes you depends on the material you are made of.
Growing up, my brothers and I always were drawn to the beauty of rocks we’d seen in the gift stores at national parks – shiny, impossibly smooth and rich with color and pattern. We’d amassed a collection our Mother kept in a bowl on a table with other treasures. And so we were thrilled when our Dad brought home a rock polisher. We immediately ran out to search the hills near our home for rocks we thought would polish up well, many of them already pretty.
On our first try — after a very loud week of listening to them go round and round (we had quickly moved the polisher to the garage) — we opened the tumbler and were equally shocked and delighted at the results. The ones we put in that had been brown and not very pretty were now all shades of colors, shiny and spectacular. And some that we had high hopes for didn’t get any prettier, and in some cases were pulverized.
The tumbler worked by pitting stone on stone, the same way glass is transformed in the ocean by the gentle, yet constant motion of sand and water. It was an important lesson that friction is not always bad. Each rock came out differently depending on what it was made of and to our untrained eyes there was no telling what any of them were made of until we began to polish them.
The constant ups and downs of life, its minor irritations and huge tragedies, our friends and our enemies – these are the stones in our personal tumblers. They either polish us or grind us down to sand. Who we are, how we turn out, how we shine, or don’t – it all comes down to the material from which we are made.
From that noisy, awkward rock polisher in our garage I learned to go against expectations, to embrace the rather loud and awkward process of throwing my lot in with others in the tumbler, and to create the conditions that will allow my own true colors to shine. Most importantly, it taught me to respect and admire adversity. Through it our inner strengths and beauties are revealed.