Two summers ago, while at the Jersey shore, I enjoyed the sun and surf with my family. All the kids were together for seafood, cotton candy, and a boardwalk filled with excitement. It was my first real vacation in years. I entertained myself with cooking, sunning, parasailing, and writing. However, there is a limit to how much eating, tanning, and excitement that one can experience at the shore.

A couple of days before returning home, I was getting bored. I started looking for other things to do. I soon became the hit of little kids down at the beach. I would dig in the sand for clams-some of which were larger than both their hands. However, I quickly supplied all the clams that the kids needed. And still, I dug. Within a matter of a few minutes, I had three or four dozen additional clams. What should I do with this ever-increasing pile of bivalve mollusks? Noticing that the seagulls took a keen interest in my labor, I started throwing the clams to the gulls. Within minutes, there I was with dozens of seagull fluttering around my head. I had transformed the beach into a seagulls' feasting arena. I looked for all the world like a twentieth century version of St. Francis of Assisi. Well, I actually looked like St. Allen of Ocean City with blood squirting all over the beach.

Amid my feeding frenzy, I accidentally cut off the very tip of my right thumb on a clam shell that partially shattered while attempting to open it. You might wonder why I felt compelled to open the clam shells for the seagulls. If I hadn't opened the shells for them, they would have had to drop them from a distance above the beach to get inside the shell. I just wanted to help these feathered creatures of God. My good deed resulted in my lopping off a part of my body. Not only have I lost a small part of my thumb, but it was embarrassing to have to explain what happened.

One little neighborhood child, seeing my bandaged thumb, asked me what had happened? I told him that I had rescued a mermaid from a giant clam that had grabbed her by her tail. The child was only four years old and bought my story hook, line, and sinker. That evening, the little boy's father saw my spouse and me at the grocery store and wanted to know where the mermaid was. Pointing to my spouse, I said, "Oh, my wife made me throw the mermaid back into the sea." Perhaps in the lifetime of your grandchildren's children, there will be an account in history books of a noble warrior rescuing a poor and defenseless mermaid from the south Jersey coast.

In the meantime, what can we learn from my sanguine experience at the seashore?

Don't eat clams for a while. Who knows where that piece of me will show up. Even after a couple of months, be observant when eating those cute little mollusks.

Be careful even when you are doing something nice for someone. Just because you are doing good doesn't guarantee that you won't get hurt. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure even with acts of mercy.

Don't kick yourself when you have an accident or make a mistake. I spent much wasted time berating myself for being so dumb. Yes, I cut part of my thumb off, but crying over spilt milk (or spilt blood in this case) doesn't make it all better. Compounding the accident by negative self-talk merely adds insult to injury. My belittling and blaming myself will not add even a millimeter to my thumb.

Things never are as bad as they first seem. After several months of recuperation, my thumb is healing very nicely, and it does not look as bad it did last summer on the beach. By next summer, the numbness in my thumb will probably be gone also.

Speaking of next summer, I won't be going to the Jersey shore nor will I be feeding clams to seagulls, but I am looking for a resort on a nice quiet lake in southwestern Wisconsin for next summer's trip. If you know of any nice facilities for family vacationing in that part of the state, just e-mail your suggestions to me. Meanwhile, enjoy your life, but be careful.

This article first appeared in the Dixon Telegraph.