I had never been to Clearwater, Florida before. Many had told me of the powder white sand and “clear” water that I needed to experience, and it was everything they had prepared my expectations for. I sat on the beach watching my boys play and fight, let’s be real!
I read the book “2 Chairs” by Bob Beaudine. I knew the style of the author was story-like and light and would make for a great read as I lay in the sun. Bob at one point started talking about how one of his mentors foresaw that there was going to be a “friend crisis” and Bob felt that time is here. He mentioned how once upon a time building true friendships use to be one of our goals in life. He talked about sitting with a powerhouse businessman at one point and out of all the things he told him that would determine his thriving was to ensure he cultivated at least one deep, true, friendship. The book continued to talk about how important friendship is as we encounter crises and hardships in life. He quotes Zig Ziglar “If you go out looking for friends, you’re going to find they are very scarce. If you go out to be a friend, you’ll find them everywhere.”
I sat watching my oldest son Koby as he began a project in the sand. He came and told me he marked off his square footage and was going to start building. Soon the brothers had joined in the fun. One thing I love about my oldest is he is brave, a leader, and not afraid to talk to anyone and he makes friends everywhere he goes. He often becomes the spokesperson for the three amigos! He saw some other kids with shovels and approached their parents asking if he could use one? Soon he has a shovel and a bucket, and a father and son duo have joined their efforts to create their own hot tub!
I decided to go for a walk on the beach and search for the perfect shell to bring back commemorating our trip and one to give to my dear friends, a teacher who loves geology.
What a sight to see, hundreds and hundreds of humans without masks on, showing their beautiful faces, playing, laughing, swimming, running, laying, reading, chatting, dancing, drinking, wearing their thongs swimsuits up and down the beach. (The first time my boys saw one, it was hilarious!)
I walked by a beautiful woman of Asian descent, about my age, in a coral-colored outfit, with a white safari-style hat, pigtail braids, and her earbuds, as we passed by, we looked at each other in the eyes and smiled with our teeth. I said to myself, “what a cutie.”
I walked under The Pier 60 bridge where three, possibly Buddhist monks with shaved heads and long tan gowns were dipping their feet in the water and peacefully watching the waves. And I said to myself, “wow, I have never seen a monk in real life.”
I watched a woman of Asian Indian descent in her cute maternity bathing suit, approach her daughter that had floated a bit too far down the beach as the current had carried her away.
I watched the sand beneath me and the thousands and thousands of little, tiny shells, I had never seen so many tiny itty bitty shells and I wondered, “will they ever run out?” I spotted a twisted orange shell partially broken but smooth and unique and said “here she is.” I snatched her up and held her in my hand rubbing my fingers on the smooth surface as I walked the rest of the beach to the rocky jetty.
I turned back and was in awe. I was in awe of the colors all around me in nature and all the people. As I passed by a tall black man with tattoos on his arm, I looked at his eyes and he lifted his hand to wave and said “hi”, I smiled and greeted him in return.
I continued my stroll, and a huge smile came across my face, as I heard a lady on her beach towel telling a story to her friends and I instantly knew her Puerto Rican accent because of the Puerto Rican’s in my life that I love.
I saw what looked like maybe a young Peruvian man sitting on his towel, maybe not there for the water, but there for the sun. He had his earbuds in, glasses, and a book, he looked like he was deep in study or thought.
I watched a beautiful black woman, with her black and blonde braids down her back, with hot yellow manicured toenails and a blush pink dress, tell her children not to touch the sand with their hands and to rinse it off, and I giggled. That is going to be quite the task!
As I came back to my boys a little girl with perfectly black ringlets hanging down her back and perfectly bronzed skin said, “Excuse me, have you seen a pink bag full of shells?” Her friend held up a blue mesh bag and said, “like this!” I said, “oh no, did you lose it? I am sorry we haven’t seen it.” A man with a bright red goatee and a woman with sunglasses and wet brown hair, must have been part of the search party as well, as it wasn’t but a minute later and the little girl yelled back to the couple “she found it!” and they cheered!
What I saw on that beach that day was America un-masked and beautiful. People leave their things sitting on the beach and no one is worried about their stuff getting stolen. They just set up their umbrella and chairs and off they go into the ocean water. There is a sense of protection in being together in front of the vast mighty, powerful ocean. As if we are all watching out for each other with holy fear, knowing what the ocean is capable of, but enjoying it all the same.
Children join forces to build things, someone with a football starts playing catch with my boys, we play, we chat with each other about where we are from and the simple things of life. We are not scared of each other, somehow nature’s playground brings out the best in us.
I am curious if we could solve so many of our internal issues and anxieties by taking the necessary steps to not be afraid of people and to move toward people instead of away? I recently posted a blog about “stranger danger” and someone asked me “so what do we do to protect our children from strangers.” I thanked them for their engagement and responded, “the thing is, I don’t believe in strangers, I just believe in people.”
As I walked up and down that beach, I saw people, beautiful people, that is it. Not criminals, not human traffickers, not kidnappers, not looters, not scammers, just people. Not people I needed to protect my children from, I saw a bunch of friends!
The news, the statistics, the horror stories might make you want to stop believing in humanity, but I cannot. I cannot give up on people. We are all we’ve got. And we are amazing. We are beautiful, kind, and intricately connected to each other, we cannot be separated. The next time you are at the grocery store, the community pool, at church, at your kid’s school assembly, or sports game, look around at ALL the people! Look at how many people there are just like you! Taking care of their family, enjoying the simple pleasures of life, enjoying their kid’s soccer game, and simply working and living day to day, just like you. See them. Don’t be afraid, don’t allow the “stories” or the “stats” to be your guide, look at the people. And set out to be a FRIEND and you will find them everywhere!