This is a story of hope, this is the story of Alfred.
We don’t often notice the extraordinary miracles that exist within the day to day moments of our lives. Bringing hope, they often arise in the most unexpected of places and in their humble silence often go unacknowledged. Only existing for a moment, they burn brightly, if missed they silently disappear leaving no trace they ever existed at all.
Miracles and hope are ideals that many search for within libraries filled with literature based on the philosophical teachings of brilliant minds such as Confucius or Socrates. Others seek these ideals from the pages of the Bible; taught before a kneeling congregation rested neatly upon church pews. I found hope in neither.
It was a warm day and as I walked through the market the air felt cool upon my face. I passed a sign that said “Live, Local, Fresh” attached to a tank that was filled with the local crab catch. It was here that I first saw Alfred.
He must have not looked like much for he went unnoticed to everyone who passed him; his arms desperately reaching for help that seemed so close but never came. Yet, from a distance and through the passing crowd I saw him.
He did not have much room to move amongst all the other crabs who laid seemingly lifeless around him, sitting, forever waiting for the cruel hand of fate to snatch them from the watery prison that contained them. An unfamiliar world that offered no escape. Through the years I have seen this same scene in many markets. The feeling is always the same….sadness. Then there was Alfred.
I watched him as he continuously made his way to the top of the pile of crabs that rested beneath his legs. It was as though he refused to follow their lead and succumb to helplessness. He still wore barnacles upon his shell leaving me to believe that freedom was still more than just a memory. Over and over again he would reach the top and stretch all his legs from one side over the edge, a small touch of freedom, before being thrust back into the watery grave that lay beneath him. Yet, despite the odds against him he had not yet lost his hope and will to keep trying. As far as he could see, home was just beyond the walls that he so desperately tried to climb. As I watched I saw so much more than “just a crab” I saw hope and after that realization I had no choice. I bought Alfred.
I cringed as the lady scooped him violently from the water and threw him onto the hard counter top. She took out two pieces of brown paper, set him on his back and folded him tightly in the paper before stuffing him in a plastic bag as though his life did not matter. I cringed at how rough she was with him, more so I cringed at the thought of him bound up so tightly….no light, no water, no certainty. I carried him through the market like a fragile bundle. Making sure not to jostle him. As I went to pay for him I kept hold of him tightly, letting the woman read his price and punch it in. I was afraid that if I handed him to her she too would be far to rough, I paid for him and hurried to the car.
When I got the car I loaded everything as quickly as I could, set him gently onto the seat and unwrapped him as I did he stretched his legs almost in relief. I positioned him on the seat and provided him a shelter so he would feel safe and then we started him towards his journey home. Time was of the essence.
I knew of a place that had very few people and was far more secluded then others. When we arrived I picked him up from his paper shelter I had made and carried him to the softness of familiar sand and set him just at the water’s edge. Throughout all my handling of him he never once tried to pinch or grab me. He was so sweet, a gentle soul behind a tough exterior, earning himself the name Alfred.
I have never seen such happiness in something so many declare has no emotion at all. It was wonderful setting him free. Some people will say, what’s the point? Someone will just capture him again. Or “It’s just a crab.” To them I say this….I didn’t see “just a crab” I saw hope trying to make it’s way to the surface. I saw the will for life to continue.
Kindness and hope exists far beyond a moment, it leaves a lasting ripple….and today it rippled across the sea before disappearing beneath the waves