It was ordinary, yet extraordinary Saturday afternoon! It was just one of those typical days at the beach that we all hope for - sunny, cool, and absolutely nothing to do but enjoy the relaxation of vacation. Yet the moment took my breath away.
I'm not talking about a gorgeous sunset over the ocean, or watching a storm pass over the island. It wasn’t a cute baby with pale and shovel in hand putting their feet into the ocean for the first time. And it wasn’t some bikini clad lady walking by my beach chair either (I’m married to a beautiful woman so I have no need for wandering eyes).
Instead, it was a simple family moment that played out at the house next door to us. We’d watched them pile in to the house earlier in the day – generations ranging from grandparents to infants unpacking their bags and spreading sunscreen on their very untanned bodies. Fourteen or fifteen of them in all - nothing unusual about that at the beach. After a few minutes, we really didn’t pay much attention beyond a passing interest in where they were going set up their beach chairs and tents in relation to ours.
A little while later, I found myself nodding off as I rocked in my chair, enjoying the cool breeze and warm sunshine on my face (i think there's a country song that talks about this much more eloquently than I do). When I woke up, I looked up and saw one of our new neighbors being carried down the boardwalk by his father and two other relatives. He looked to be about my age. Behind them was his walker, sitting by itself. He’d left it there, replacing it with the caring hands of his family members who were helping him down to the beach. When they got to the hard sand, he stood up and started walking. Every step requiring the assistance of folks who clearly loved him and were all too happy to help him out to the water. When they were about knee deep in the ocean, they brought a big round float and gently sat him in the middle of it. Then they carefully walked along side him, out through the short breaking waves. You could see a special smile on his face. Clearly this wasn't something he had done in a while, maybe ever.
Then his dad leaned over and kissed him on the head as he floated out beyond the breakers. No doubt this man's son was dealing with a very difficult illness. I’m not a doctor and would never attempt to diagnose his condition but it was clear that he did not have the full use of his arms and legs. Yet no one around him looked troubled, or sad, or frustrated. Instead, you could see family members happily helping navigate his float, others bringing him a bottle of water, and others taking pictures and video to capture what was clearly a very special family moment. Others were laughing and smiling, taking in the scene because they knew it was something special. You could just feel it.
Me? I was rocking in my beach chair, smiling through the tears that just kept coming, hidden behind my sunglasses. I felt blessed to be a witness to a special moment for that young man and his family.
Why am I posting this as my blog for the week you ask? In part it's because my vacation was cut short for a lot of reasons and I really wasn't in the mood to write about something too "professional" this week. I guess maybe there is a lesson somewhere in this story about love and compassion - whether shown by family and friends, or by nonprofit hospitals and hospices, or by child care centers and senior centers, or by foster parents and veterans assistance programs, or groups trying to save animals from extinction and those fighting for the rights of hunters and fishermen. But mostly I write this because I think it's a good idea for individuals and organizations to stop and celebrate the times in our lives when we witness simple acts of goodness, kindness and joy. Saturday was just one of those days for me!