He bent down and picked up another stone. His knees and back ached as they bent. Standing gingerly upright once more, he observed the stone intently. A familiar dejected disappointment overcame him as he reached over his shoulder and put the stone in his backpack. It was a terrible burden now, cutting into his shoulders, making him permanently bent over and aching.
All around the beach, people of varying ages were doing the same thing. The younger looking people still did it with enthusiasm and vigour. One could see the look of excitement in their eyes just before they began to examine each stone. Their back-packs were still light. They vigorously bounded about the beach, eager, competitive.
Beyond the beach in either direction were the children. Playing in the sand dunes and the surf. Their beaming smiles and joyous laughter reminded him of a time long gone. Then he remembered the day his father had solemnly taken him aside and given him his backpack. It was a proud day. A rite of passage. His father felt a great surge of pride too.
"Why do we search for the stone?" He asked his father.
"It is what we do, son. It is what we have always done," his father answered. "I know you will make me proud." Donning his backpack, he had enthusiastically joined the adult world.
Now he looked at the children and he looked at the young adults. He looked at the middle aged adults and he looked at the older adults.
His realisation was sudden and stark. He began to laugh out loud at the folly of it all. With some difficulty he shook the backpack from his shoulders.
Feeling a tremendous lightness of being he let it crash to the ground and ran laughing into the surf, beaming children gathering and cheering around him.
From the beach many faces looked his way and frowned with disapproval. Another one gone mad.
"We don't stop playing because we grow old. We grow old because we stop playing." George Bernard Shaw
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