Angela’s Day at the Beach
In The Weight of Glory C.S. Lewis says “We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” This story takes that idea and wraps a narrative around it.
Angela, a poor, neglected girl in London, meets a nice young woman who offers to take her to the beach. Angela is hesitant to go on the trip, choosing to play in the gutter instead. In the end Angela goes on the trip and is in awe of the wonder of the ocean.
As Christians we are far to often satisfied with just a little of God. We want to come on Sundays and maybe dabble in a few of the other activities, but we don’t really want God to change our life. The reason is that we have no clue what a full life with God really feels like. We have been given false hope in so many different areas in our life that we have shut down our heart and chosen to just try our best not to make waves and go through life without getting hurt. But if we can let go of what we know and risk a full life with God we will be amazed at what we discover.
Angela was a dirty faced little girl playing in a dirty street in the poorer part of Charlotte. She was 8 years old, but years of eating only when her Mom was sober enough to remember her, or when she could beg enough food on the streets, had left her smaller than most girls her age. Here hair was brown and long, tangled in many places, and of course dirty, everything about Angela was dirty.
When people passed her on the street, though, the dirt wasn’t the first thing they saw, in fact it wasn’t even the second. Hiding behind the dirt was an angular face that was surprisingly beautiful, but the thing that most people noticed were her wide dark eyes. They were old eyes, eyes that looked like they had lived a hundred lifetimes. They would dance when she would laugh, but even then they never lost that ancient haunted quality around the edges.
Angela’s beauty hidden under the street grime stopped lots of people who passed her on the streets. On a usual day sitting on the street with a plastic sand pail in front of her she could beg enough money for her and her mother to eat, with a little left over for her mother to never have to worry about a hangover.
Life for Angela was just that: life. She didn’t go to school, she really didn’t play with any other children, most of the parents in the neighborhood didn’t want their daughters playing with “that little dirty girl.” She lived above a tattoo parlor in a 2 room flat that she shared with her mother. The owner of the tattoo parlor, Gus, liked Angela and would help her out from time to time, but mostly she just took care of herself.
One day after it rained, Angela was playing in the dirt at the side of the road. She was scooping the mud up into her pail and then shaping it into little mud pies that she laid out on the sidewalk. As she was doing this a young woman walked up and stopped on the sidewalk looking at her. Angela quickly dumped out her pail and help it up to the lady.
“Got any change?” Angela asked.
“You want me to give you some money?” the lady asked.
“Pleeease” Angela said and gave her best smile.
“Well, you are very polite,” the lady said, “but I don’t want to give you money and get nothing in return.”
“What do you mean?” Angela asked, suddenly suspicious.
“Well, how much for one of those mud pies?”
“How much will you give me?”
“I will give you 10 dollars for one pie,” the lady said.
“Wow! 10 whole dollars! It would take me all day to make that!”
“Yes I will give you 10 dollars for one pie, and I will be back here at the same time tomorrow and I will expect another one.”
“Really?” Angela asked.
“Yes, really,” the lady laughed. “My name is Sarah. What’s your name?”
“Angela,” Angela said.
“Nice to meet you Angela,” the lady said and held out her hand. Sarah wiped her hand on her already dirty shirt and shook it. Then throwing a thanks over her shoulder she took her pail and her money and ran off for home.
Sarah took the mud pie she had purchased and continue down the street.
For the next 3 days Angela would sit and wait for Sarah to come and get her mud pies. The little patch of dirt she used in the street dried up on the second day so she had to get water from the hose behind the tattoo parlor, but she was sure to have a pie ready for Sarah every day.
On Friday Sarah said, “O Angela, I forgot to tell you, I won’t need a pie on Fridays.”
Angela’s face fell. She would have to go back to begging.
“But,” Sarah said, “I do need someone to come and sit with me while I eat my supper. Would you like to come with me?”
Angela jumped at the chance. She ran home to put her pail away and Sarah followed. Finding Angela’s mom passed out on the sofa, Sarah said a few words to Gus downstairs and then took Sarah by the hand and led her down the street.
So began a bit of a relationship between Angela and Sarah. Each day Angela would carry the water and make her mud pies. Each Friday she would go with Sarah to a warm clean place to eat and talk. Sarah seemed to love to listen, and Angela would spend their hour together just talking about her life and what she had seen on the streets. All week long Angela looked forward to these little trips with Sarah even if Sarah did always make her wash her hands.
One day Sarah said she needed to talk to Angela’s mother.
“Why?” Angela asked.
“Because I am going on a trip next weekend and I want to take you with me.”
“Where are you going?” Angela asked.
Sarah began to explain. Angela tried to understand all that Sarah said, but it seemed a bit too outrageous to be true. Something about yellow sand that wasn’t all black and dirty from passing cars.
When Sarah said something about water as far as the eye can see Angela interrupted, “Is it clean?”
“Of course it’s clean”
“Well can you drink it?”
“No, you don’t want to drink it. It is very salty.”
“Why would you need that much water if you can’t drink it?” Angela asked.
“Because it’s beautiful,” Sarah said.
Sarah spent a little while longer explaining her trip, but Angela didn’t ever quite grasp what she was saying. In the end Angela finally said.
“I don’t think I want to go?”
“Why?” Sarah asked.
“Well, I don’t want to get too far from Momma, and I like my street. I make some good money from people passing by on Saturday and if I stay here I can play here on the curb.”
“But you can play at the beach, and you won’t need to make any money.”
“It just sounds too weird for me. I like it here.” Angela said.
Sarah didn’t know what to say.
On Monday Sarah gave a picture of the beach along with her money for her pie. Angela still didn’t want to go. On Thursday Sarah told Angela that they were going to see her mother.
“Why?” Angela asked.
“Because you are going with me tomorrow.”
“But I don’t want to go with you.”
“Trust me, Angela, it will be wonderful,” Sarah said
“But I don’t want to go,” Angela whined.
“Well let’s go and talk with your mother anyway.”
Luckily Angela’s mother was at least awake if not sober. Angela waited in the other room while Sarah talked to her mother. She watched as Sarah gave her mother some money. Angela didn’t know what was happening, but she was starting to be afraid.
On Friday Sarah didn’t walk up to see Angela, but showed up in her car.
“Come on Angela, we are heading to the beach,” Sarah said.
“I don’t want to go,” Angela said, “there is nothing I can do there that I can’t do here.”
“but it is clean there, and the water is so beautiful.”
“No, I don’t want to go, I don’t want to leave my mommy.” Angela said almost crying, “I don’t care if you paid for me, I don’t want to go with you, I want my mommy.”
“Angela, I will bring you back, I only want to show you how amazing this place is.”
“I’m not going.” Angela said and crossed her arms and sat down on the curb.
“O, yes you are,” said a voice from behind her. It was Angela’s mother in her bathrobe. She was staggering a bit, but she looked determined. “This nice lady wants to take you to the beach, and wants to do it bad enough to pay me to take you, so you are going with her.”
“I’m not going,” Angela huffed.
“Get your butt in that car right now, young lady”
Sarah just stood silently between them.
“I’m not going.” Angela said.
That was the last straw for her mother, she picked Angela up and hauled her into the car. Then she fastened the seat belt and closed the door. Sarah smiled nervously and then got into the car herself.
Angela was beyond tears when they pulled away from the curb. She wasn’t sure where they were going, but she was leaving the only place she had ever known. She liked Sarah, sure, but this was too much.
Sarah tried to talk a few times, but Angela just sat in silence, enduring her capture with crossed arms and a frown.
Two hours of silence later the car rolled off the highway and onto a smaller road. As it came over a hill there was the Atlantic Ocean laid out in all of its splendor. The sun was reflecting off the waves as they crashed onto the shore. The sand that stretched for miles was clean and pure.
Angels face began to brighten, her wide eyes got even wider as she stared in wonder out the window. Her voice was hushed, reverent, almost a prayer when she said, “O Sarah, it is beautiful.”
She continued to stare out the window eyes dancing everywhere trying to take it all in.
“You’re not even out of the car yet.” Sarah said, “Just wait it gets much, much better.”