Lessons from a Thrift Store Pearl

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I am a woman obsessed with pearls.

Delicate and hypnotic, I love to watch the way each one catches the light, reflecting a soft, ethereal glow.

Here are the top three reasons why everyone should be obsessed with pearls.

First, they symbolize the secrets of the heart: hidden wisdom, the discovery of heaven-on-earth, and tears of joy.

Second, you can often find pearls in thrift stores, like I do. It’s a little tricky to tell a real pearl from a fake one, but once you master the secrets (which you can learn anywhere online) it gets easier. I pay as little as $3 for some strands, even the ones with gold clasps.

Don’t think pearls are always white, either. See the picture above? Those are just a few of my strands. My collection includes black Tahitian, South Sea, fresh water, dyed, Baroque, and of course, the classic white opera-length strand. For my many evenings at the opera.

(Which is my kitchen on Friday nights. Pavarotti on Spotify while I make pizza.)

Here is the third and most wonderful reason to be utterly obsessed with pearls:


Pearls are the embodiment of the promise that good will overcome evil.

Each pearl began as the smallest injury or insult, a breach of manners that no one else noticed.

The oyster noticed, though. It mulled it over. Quietly. In darkness. Day after day.

Layer upon layer, covering that insult with goodness until beauty was all that remained. And we’re proud to display what remained.

If we drilled down to the center of these beauties, would we see the insult or injury that began the good work? Why would we want to? It cannot be undone.


All that matters is how the oyster responded.

Someday, all that will remain from today is my response. Especially to the things that hurt me.

That statement makes me reconsider the things I think about, and how I think about them, in the dark of night. My pearls remind me that my inner thoughts will become visible and even tangible. I see that principle all the time now.

A friend of mine recently endured an unimaginable tragedy. She told me she can only speak the truth now. I would be reminded of Cassandra, but my friend’s story is infinitely more hopeful. She can only speak the truth, and when she does, the truth sounds very much like love.

And I think of her, what terrible events she must have to mull over, in the darkness, day after day. But somehow, she responds with love. A quiet outpouring of it, day after day. Her response touches us all and makes us want to be better humans. She is leaving a powerful legacy. The pain at her core is being washed over, every hour, with love. And all around her, we are changing.

Someday, I’ll leave my collection of thrift store pearls to my girls. And whatever my thoughts have been in the late of night, whatever my responses to insult and injury, well, that creates something I will leave to them as well.

I hope it will be something very much like a pearl.

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