When I think of Thanksgiving, all my blessings rush to mind, including the ones I often take for granted, such as food, shelter, clothing, family, friends, and freedom of worship. The many gifts of life in peaceful Marietta, Georgia, overwhelm me compared to the obstacles faced by many. But today I’m in Destin, Florida, on a fall vacation, seeing people I haven’t seen since last October. I’m thankful I’ve found a spot where I’m received with warm welcome smiles. One doesn’t find such a place easily in our busy world where we often don’t have time for one another, where we disagree on so many issues, where we have so many problems to confront.
Before I left for Destin I left the house to drive to the pool in Marietta to swim laps before the crowds arrived, ended up in the Monday morning rush hour, rode one hundred feet in a long line of cars, stopped, rode another hundred feet, stopped, started moving again when suddenly a red sports car zipped in front of me, missed me by an eight of an inch. I turned down the radio. I always instinctively do that if threatened by vehicles when driving, and I don’t know why unless I subconsciously believe I can concentrate better. Finally, I reached Cobb Aquatic Center, got in, swam, got out refreshed, and thought how fortunate I am to have such a great place to exercise.
However, when I entered the locker room instead of the familiar faces I usually see and chat with there was only one large-boned, heavy set woman with dyed black hair I’d never met. I put my black swim bag underneath the hook on the wall where I’d hung my navy sweat pants and shirt. She frowned at me. “You’ve got the whole locker room. Can’t you put that bag somewhere else? Can’t you see my bag next to it?”
Shocked, I cut my eyes at her, thinking that some darkness had fallen over her life, and I was sorry for it. Nonetheless, I said nothing. Instead I hurriedly unzipped my bag, retrieved my soap, shampoo, and towel, and stepped into the shower, quickly pulling the curtain shut. I rushed to get ready to leave, because I didn’t want to stay in the same room with that lady, even though she didn’t speak to me again during the time I dressed and dried my hair. Relieved that she hadn’t, I left.
On the way home a black sedan pulled onto the 120 Loop, headed toward me. I blew my horn, but the vehicle kept coming as though the driver were deaf. Out of self preservation, without even looking, I moved to the lane beside me. Miraculously, probably because I pray each morning to be spared in the Atlanta traffic, the space was available, and no accident occurred. When I got home I told my husband about my unusually trying morning. “Phew, what a way to start a vacation,” I said. But start it we did. We arrived here late that night.
The next day I sat on the beach, listened to the roar of the waves lap the white sand, my mind millions of miles away from the red sports car, the stocky, harsh woman, and the black sedan. Later I walked up to the deck overlooking the shore to join the Sunset Club. That’s a group of people who see each other in Destin every night at sunset during the month of October. As soon as I arrived I got hugs from the ladies I’d seen here the previous two years. “How have you been?” we asked one another. Then we caught up.
A stranger, a tall, thin woman wearing a blue jogging suit walked up and stood beside me. I smiled. “Hi.”
“Hello,” she said.
Then a man with dark hair and brown eyes asked, “Did you come down to see the sunset?”
“Yes,” she said. In her brown eyes I saw a sensitive, friendly soul we could get to know, give hugs to if she came again next year.
Moments afterward I put on my sunglasses to look at the big red ball paint the powder blue horizon with its bright orange and red streaks just above the calm emerald green water. The man with the dark eyes said, “Time it.”
A petite, blonde headed lady with a sweet smile glanced at her watch as we all stopped chattering, turned toward the setting sun, which now lay at the base of the sea, slowly sinking, sinking like butter melting until it slid away, leaving a profusion of warm pink shades across the sky. When finally we saw it no more the timer said, “Two and a half minutes.” But even after the sun disappeared we stayed beside the shore with its cool breeze and talked about the glorious sunset, our trips down here, our children, and our plans for the next day long after the sky grew completely dark. Here it was easy to set my eyes on God, to feel cared about, and accepted, and to return the sentiment. Thankful for the respite, tranquility, and welcome of this place, I have resolved to take the peace of it with me to give to others.
Matthew 5: 9: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.”