This day had started out like many a Sunday before, yet I had decided to change up my routine and seek an alternate spot to spend my morning. This weekly ritual consisted of watching the sunrise, catching some rays, listening to good music, and reading a book.
At the north end of the beach, cars were already lined up for a quarter mile capturing coveted parking spaces by beachgoers. I had to stop and think about what might be going on at 7am on a Sunday morning. If it were Easter, I would think there was a megachurch sunrise service happening on this spot of beach.
Behold; a parking spot, right in front of a beach entrance. What more could I ask for on this picture-perfect, 68-degree day of fall in South Florida?
As I slid into the opening, I saw that the van in front of me was a conversion van that sported a handicap license plate. I took care to not park so close to the back door in case the occupant needed to access the rear for a wheelchair lift. However, when I shut my car off and got out, I checked my parking job and saw that I was not inside my lines. The back of my car was well into the space behind me which would make it tough for someone else to park there. So, I started the car and inched forward, still not out of danger to the rear, so I inched forward again. That would be good on both fronts.
As I began to gather my requisite gear for the trip to the beach, a man moved down the sidewalk rocking back and forth using arm crutches, clearly working extremely hard to move his ailing body. He had recognized that I had taken great care to park my car and not get too close to his van and he wanted to thank me for that.
“Most people don’t give a damn and get right up to the bumper not allowing me to use the rear doors. Thank you for caring enough to provide some space.”
I acknowledged the fact that I did care and was happy to oblige.
He continued on down to the beach, some 40 yards of sand marking the path to Paradise.
Minutes later, I had completed my unloading process and began to navigate my way to a morning of peace and sunshine when I spotted the same man slowly making his way down the path. I slowed my gait so I would not be up on top of him seemingly pushing him to go faster. As I hung back, he could not see that I waited for him to negotiate the treacherous ground with his disability. Eventually, he made his way to the end of the path and moved to the side to park himself for the sunrise.
I continued on to my perch about 20 additional yards closer to the water, occasionally taking a peek to see if my buddy was still there. And yes, he had laid face down on the beach looking at his cell phone presumably taking snapshots of the beauty that stood before us. I’m fairly certain he was doing this as I was doing a bit of the same.
Four hours later as I was packing up my belongings to make the return trip back to my car, I noticed he had left. I know he was on the beach for a good 2 to 3 hours but had obviously felt it was time for him to move on with his day.
As I neared the clearing approaching the street, I noticed the top of the van rising above the tree line. He was still parked at the curb.
Before getting in my car, I noticed the sliding door to the van was open so I decided to peek inside. There sat my friend, relaxing in a seat with a built-in table in front of him. I said hello preemptively as I didn’t want to get caught just standing there ogling at him.
We introduced ourselves. His name was Ian. He looked like he was well prepared for the day based on the contents of his van, which included a meal that he had just finished. I asked him if he came every Sunday. He said he was at the beach every day that the sun was out, so in South Florida, that’s a lot of days. We chatted about everything and nothing. He told me he parked in the same spot every day.
“You know why I always park in this spot? Three reasons,” as he held up three crooked fingers.
“First, it’s one of the bigger spots. Did you know these parking spots are not all the same size?” he continued sweeping his hand from left to right.
“Second, it’s easy access to the beach,” which was one of my reasons for grabbing the spot I did, “and third,” looking and pointing up, “on very hot days, I get some relief from the shade of that tree,” a tree that I was now standing under enjoying said shade.
I bid goodbye and told him I’d see him next Sunday.
Ian had this gig totally pegged. He had food, a prime parking spot, and shade that protected him from the sweltering heat. He also did not let a debilitating disease keep him from enjoying the natural beauty of God’s creation. I was encouraged by Ian’s bright, cheery smile and his positive outlook on life.
It turned out to be a bonus day at the beach. I watched a beautiful sunrise, came away with a nice tan, listened to good music, and read an interesting book. And, I made a new friend.