The Isle of Capri sits off the coast of Italy, about ankle high to the big boot. The Island is located in the Tyrrhenian Sea, off the Sorrentine Peninsula, on the south side of the Gulf of Naples. When we visited, my family had to take a hydrafoil to get there.
It is only 4 square miles in area, but has been a resort destination since the Roman Republic, most famous for the breathtaking blue grotto (pictured).
And…all of the beauty, history and culture was wasted on 18 year old Angie, who was more interested in the beaches, the boys and the parties than in the wonders of the universe.
The island rose out of the sea like a giant carved stone with the towns, villas and hotels built in to the cliffs. To reach our hotel, about halfway up the side of the island, our taxi took a circular road, coiling around the island like a boa constrictor. Walking to the beach below meant descending multiple stone steps down to the next level, crossing the street and then descending another set of stone steps to the next level…crossing the street..then…repeat.
One sunny day, my family descended to the breathtaking coast. Swimming, snorkeling and sun bathing consumed most of the day. I had met a group of college kids who were friends from a university in Italy traveling together and staying in the same hotel as my family. It was their last night on Capri, so they were planning a big party. They invited me to attend, which I excitedly accepted. As we were making plans, my mom called me over to where she lay on a chaise, under a giant turquoise umbrella. I walked over to her, slightly annoyed by the interruption. She informed me that she, my dad and my brothers were ready to return to the hotel, but that my little sister wanted to stay. I knew what was coming and protested baby sitter duty, explaining about the party at the hotel. Mom agreed to let me attend the party provided I watch my sister for a little while longer as she played in the sand. I reluctantly agreed and plopped down in the lounge chair with a grunt and a heavy sigh. Eyeing my 5 year old sister earnestly digging in the sand, I noticed her tiny pink tongue sticking out with the effort and concentration. Then I couldnt help but smile.
Backstory: my little sister was an unexpected prize from God. I was 13 when she was born, and from the very moment I laid eyes on her, it was love at first sight. Previously growing up the only girl between boys, it was a blessing to finally have a sister. And she looked up to me like I was something special too. Needless to say, we had a very special bond. So, yes, as I watched her create a sand castle (more like a sand mound) the irritation vanished and I smiled at her.
I allowed her to continue in the sand for about a half hour longer and then informed her that it was time to go. She tried to argue, but her eyes were tired and I could tell she would not give me much of a fight. I brushed off her clothes, buckled her sandals and took her hand. We started towards the stone steps leading up to our hotel. However, just as we were leaving, I heard my name being called. Looking back, I spied Jean, one of the students…the cute one. Telling my sister to wait, yet still clutching her hand, I watched as he approached. He told me that he hoped I would be coming to the party. I said that I was. He smiled and started telling me a funny story about college life. I was enthralled. My sister, on the other hand was not. She was growing inpatient, tugging my hand and saying, “Sissy, let’s go!”
But, he was so cute!
So, we kept talking. After just a very few minutes, I realized she had stopped tugging. As a matter of fact, she wasnt even holding my hand. How did I not feel it, when she had slipped her hand out of mine?
She was gone!.
She was gone!
I looked all around, started running up and down the beach calling her name…my heart beating harder and faster as panic radiated fear and pain throughout my stomach and into my chest. Jean and the others in the group also helped me look for her. But she had vanished. All I could think about was that I had to tell my parents so we could call the police (no cell phones then). So I walked each group of steps… Crossing each street…before ascending again. I was crying. My heart was so heavy. Sadness, shame and guilt wrapped around me like a shroud.
Ascending the last group of steps, I heard the sound of someone else crying…a kid…a little girl. Racing around the curved stairs I saw her. Sitting on the top stone with tears running down her face. An elderly couple was asking where her parents were. I heard her say, “My sissy lost me.”
As I neared her and called out her name, she yelled with joy and ran to meet me. I started crying again, sat on a step, and pulled her into my lap. Her grief relieved, she was surprised by my reaction. “Sissy, why are you sad. You found me!” I assured her that I was very happy to have found her. I told her I was sorry for not paying more attention to her.
Then… I begged her not to tell mom and dad.
She solemly promised she would NEVER tell.
As soon as we walked into the hotel room the first words out of her mouth were “Guess what? Sissy lost me!”
I didnt get to go to the party that night.
Even after 35 plus years, whenever I remember that day, I can remember the fear and grief of losing something precious to me. And how focusing on a new and temporary distraction almost cost me dearly.
Being grateful for the things in our lives means not taking them for granted. Whatever job you are in, place you are in or situation you are in, you need to take stock.
It is so easy to allow the cares of the world to weigh you down. Do you have a difficult and thankless job? Are family or relationship issues troublesome? Are you going through a period where you are focusing on what you do not have in your life? Focusing solely on those things are like cement to your mind, making it difficult for other thoughts to break through. Eventually that weight becomes heavier and we tend to take our eyes off of what we “have” and what we hold dear…to focus on that which is weighing us down. Unattended and forgotten… what was precious to us can become lost.
Sometimes we can take what we “have” for granted and allow our attention to be diverted to something newer, temporarily more interesting. But what I found is that keeping my eyes on what is truly important in my life can help me weather the other stuff.
It’s all in your perspective. I have heard great teachers and speakers agree on one thing…the healing power of gratefulness and taking time every day to acknowledge what is important in your life.
Before I go to bed each night I try to thank God for 3 things I am grateful for…at least three…every night. It might not be the same three each night, but I have to have at least three.
If you dont believe in God, you can just speak out loud the three things for which you are grateful.
When I remember those people and things that are important to me, I tend to make an effort to give them consistent attention. Funny thing is, I often find that when I make an effort to appreciate what I have, the action is reciprocal.
My little sister has grown up to be a smart, beautiful woman with a giant heart for helping others. She is still very near the top of my grateful list. She forgave me that day for “losing her”. But in “losing” her, I found an important lesson in gratefulness.