This Christmas was a very busy time for me — hosting visitors, wrapping gifts, cooking homemade food, and preparing for the Strangers Have the Best Candy Florida Keys book tour. I was running nonstop, somewhere between frantic and frenetic.
Finally, on Christmas morning, after I dropped my father and brother at the Catholic church, I had a rare treat: 15 whole minutes to myself.
I drove to Riverside Park in Vero Beach, where I thought I might walk along the river or just sit and look at the water. That all changed when I drove into the park and saw two young women in shorts holding cardboard signs. From a distance, they looked like hitchhikers at Burning Man! But up close, I could read the signs, which said “Free Christmas Breakfast.”
I rolled down my window. “Who’s sponsoring the breakfast?” I asked. They told me that it was a group from King’s Baptist Church, and they pointed up the road to a picnic shelter where they would be serving until 10:30. I glanced at the clock on my dashboard. It was 10:25.
All I hoped for was a good cup of coffee, but the friendly young group had much more than that. They had a huge grill and enough pancakes and eggs and pastries and orange juice for all of Vero Beach. They had excellent coffee.
They sat me down and treated me as an honored guest, and we talked about my favorite subject, talking to strangers. The conversation flowed along to a fun related topic, waving at strangers. On this sunny Christmas morning beside the river, no one was in a hurry to leave at 10:30, and I stayed past my planned 15 minutes.
I don’t remember all seven of their names, but thanks to this photo, I do remember their joyful faces. Here is how we celebrate Christmas in Florida: Out in the sunshine, smiling and waving at all of you.