The piece, subtitled "'It's Crazy' - Man In France Finds And Returns Message In A Bottle To School In Sandwich, Massachusetts", over two and a half decades after it was first set afloat upon the high seas, a glass bottle with a message in it has been found. More importantly, the finder has responded.
It seems that a French man stumbled upon a handwritten message in a bottle that washed up on the beach on the western shores of the country, a full 26 years after the bottle was tossed into the sea by a Massachusetts fifth grader.
According to the article:
"It’s crazy to think it took that long for someone to find it," Carol Archambeault, an English teacher in the Sandwich, Massachusetts, public school district told Fox News Digital. "The bottle is so old, I can see why people are so interested in it," she added.
The faded letter, addressed "Dear Beachcomber," was penned by Benjamin Lyons, a fifth grader at Forestdale School in Sandwich. Dated October 1997, the letter was written as part of a science unit on ocean currents led by teacher Frederic Hemmila.
"It was a culminating activity after studying ocean currents and tides," said Archambeault, his teaching counterpart. "They were trying to see where the letters would end up, where the currents would take them."
In the letters, students provided their names, the date they wrote the letters, and where they attended school in Sandwich. Fifth grader Lyons wrote that he thanked the finder for being "kind enough" to pick up the bottle. He explained that his class was studying currents and dropped the bottles in Nantucket Sound - hoping that whoever found it could answer a few questions.
Hemmila had a friend, Archambeault remembered, who was a boat captain. Each year, Hemmila's friend took the bottles and cast them into the ocean - a practice that was suspended a few years later so as not to contribute to marine litter, according to Archambeault. "Now, of course, we know that’s not so eco-friendly," Archambeault said. "But at that time, it was a very exciting activity. The kids would wait to see if they had any answers," she added.
In his message in a bottle, Lyons included a few questions in case a person eventually found it: "Where did you find the bottle? What condition was it in? Was there anything around the bottle besides water and rocks? How did you find it?"
Archambeault said Hemmila and his students went to great lengths to seal the bottles in the hope they would make it to faraway shores with the letters still intact. "I know that [they] sealed them with wax so they're found in pretty good condition," Archambeault said.
The students (did indeed seal) the bottles with wax so that if anyone found them, the written messages inside would still be intact. (Brandy Clifford, Oakridge School, Sandwich, Massachusetts) She went on, "The one the gentleman found in France was in decent condition because no water had gotten into the bottle in 26 years."
Last month, a brown package arrived at Forestdale School, addressed to "Mr. Benjamin Lyons." "So it came here and our secretaries were looking him up in PowerSchool [a classroom attendance and management tool], trying to find out who this kid is," Brandy Clifford, assistant principal at another local school, Oak Ridge, told Fox News Digital.
Clifford went on, "It came through inner-office mail. They thought he was a current student, but they didn’t know who he was." At a loss, administrators decided to open the envelope. They found a note inside, written in French. He opened it - and did exactly what the sender requested.
"Hello Sir, Bottle found on a sandy beach in Les Sables-d'Olonne, Vendée, France on 19 August 2023," the letter read. Fisherman Hubert Eriau, 71, was picking up trash on a beach when he came upon an old bottle that had washed ashore. After opening it, he wrote a letter to the school in Massachusetts where the message inside the bottle was written by a student roughly 30 years ago. (Brandy Clifford, Oakridge School, Sandwich, Massachusetts)
"I was at the beach and as I was walking along, picking up trash on the beach, it was like it was there for me to find the bottle. It had several barnacles collected on it," Eirau's letter, which was translated from French to English for Fox News Digital, continued. The package included a picture of Eirau and also contained the original letter from Lyons.
That’s when everyone in the fairly small town of Sandwich began putting it together. "They were over the top, just so excited about this," Clifford said. "Once I saw the name, I said, 'Oh my God.' I was having dinner with his parents two days from then."
Archambeault did not have Lyons in class - but said she taught his sister and brother. "So I'm familiar with the family," Archambeault said. "I definitely knew as soon as they said it was Ben Lyons." Hemmila’s students’ messages have provided pop-ups of excitement over the years, according to Archambeault. "It's been a really long time since one has been found," Archambeault said. "Obviously a bunch would wash up on Cape Cod," she added.
"I know that we had several in France, so obviously something in the currents must lead that way. And I'm pretty sure we had one returned from Greenland. So, they've traveled really far and the people that find them are so gracious to reach out and write back."
As I read this article, I could not help but remember two things. The first is when my sister, herself a school teacher, and my wife once set a paper "Flat Stanley" character inside a bottle afloat in the sea. That was approximately 15 years ago. To date, there has been no response to that requested response.
The second is the admonition of the writer of the Old Testament Book of Ecclesiastes, who said in chapter 11, verse 1: "Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days."
Why would I say this? Precisely because this verse is often associated with sending things out to sea and awaiting a response.
What then are we to make of this verse? Well, the folks over at the "Got Questions. Your Questions. Biblical Answers." website have done a good job of expositing this passage. They write:
"Ecclesiastes 11:1 says, 'Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days' (ESV). This maxim has led to a variety of interpretations, some better than others…
One view is that the instruction to 'cast your bread upon the waters' has to do with international commerce. The principle is that, if you invest your 'bread' or 'grain' wisely, in a broad enough market, you will garner a return. A couple of Bible translations bring out this meaning:
'Ship your grain across the sea; after many days you may receive a return' (NIV). 'Invest your money in foreign trade, and one of these days you will make a profit.' (GNT).
The problem with seeing this verse as advice on international trade is that the context doesn’t much support it. One of the themes of Ecclesiastes is that financial gain is 'vanity' (see Ecclesiastes 5:10–17), so why would the author, Solomon, near the end of the book, be giving advice on how to turn a profit?
Another view is that the instruction to 'cast your bread upon the waters' is a metaphor for being generous, even if a return seems unlikely. A couple of other translations emphasize this meaning:
'Be generous, and someday you will be rewarded' (CEV). 'Do good wherever you go. After a while, the good you do will come back to you' (ERV).
This second, metaphorical view is probably more in line with the intent of the verse. Casting bread or sowing seed on water seems to be an exercise in futility. But you don’t know what the actual results will be, says Solomon; in faith be generous, and in faith expect a return somewhere down the road. This accords with Proverbs 11:18, 'The one who sows righteousness reaps a sure reward'; and Galatians 6:9, 'Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.'
Carrying that interpretation forward, we look at Ecclesiastes 11:1–2 together: 'Ship your grain across the sea; after many days you may receive a return. Invest in seven ventures, yes, in eight; you do not know what disaster may come upon the land.'
The passage as a whole communicates the principle of doing as much good as you can, knowing two things: the results are in God’s hands, and you don’t know when you yourself will be in need of someone else’s generosity.
The book of Ecclesiastes is unique in the Hebrew Scriptures. It is the only book that overtly philosophizes. Specifically, Ecclesiastes is a book of practical philosophy - it is based on observation and experience, not on strained, esoteric ideas.
The topic in Ecclesiastes 11:1-6 is not how water affects bread. It is about how our goodness affects the world. The bread and water are used as imagery. The 'bread', which by metonymy is best understood to be the seed of the bread (its grain), represents our goodness, and the rest of the passage encourages us to be undeterred in our “sowing. We must 'cast our bread' - we must liberally extend our goodness, even when it doesn’t seem to be doing any good (cf. Matthew 5:44 and Luke 14:13–14).
We should note that Ecclesiastes 11:1 is not a holy algorithm that says if you do X in the Y way then Z will happen. Rather, Solomon gives us a precept and a prescription. It is not a formula like those used in laboratories that necessarily yield the same results time after time. Sowing goodness comes under the realm of social science.
Solomon is offering good advice based on his observations. But since people are involved - and since people are volitional creatures - the maxim cannot guarantee a positive result in every case. This 'no guarantees' aspect of benevolence is shown by the phrase 'upon the waters”. We cast our bread out into the world, and we simply cannot know if every seed will find a place to grow. What we do know is that a significant number of seeds will grow. We should not get hung up on the fact that some of the seeds will not thrive (cf. Mark 4:3–20).
Casting bread upon the waters evokes the law of sowing and reaping. The seed in this case is one’s acts of goodness. There will be a harvest in heaven, if not in this world. But the point Solomon makes is more than that we should sow goodness in order to reap a future harvest; the idea is for us to become people who will do good for goodness’ sake, irrespective of the harvest.
Ecclesiastes 11:1–6 can reasonably mean, 'Sow seeds of goodness every day, even when it doesn’t make sense to do so. In due season you will reap a reward. Be diligent about sowing goodness, and accept no excuses! Then goodness will become a part of who you are, not just a thing that you do, and the world will be a better place because of it.'"
For my part, I have never personally cast anything upon the waters of the world’s oceans. This might well be because I live hundreds of miles inland. But I have certainly placed my money in domestic and international investments, hoping for a profitable return. At times, I have been rewarded; and at times, I have not.
Better yet (and more to the point), I have tried to be generous, and to do good wherever I have gone. And yes, I like to feel like I have truly been "rewarded" as a result, and that the good I have done has very often "come back home to me".
And so, my friend, cast thine own bread upon the water, and someday you too will be "rewarded". Indeed… "Do good wherever you go. (And) after a while, the good you do will (surely) come back to you (as well)!"
https://www.foxnews.com/lifestyle/message-bottle-written-massachusetts-5th-grader-found-france-26-years-later. The author, Gretchen Eichenberg, is a contributing reporter for Fox News Digital.
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