Thursday, July 21, 2016

Beach Angels by Milou Koenings

Every once in a while, you meet someone who restores your faith in humanity.  This week, for us, it was at the beach.

chairs on beach
Beach party, anyone?
I took some of my kids to the beach with a friend and her little boy. My friend's little boy, Eli, has Downs syndrome. He's thirteen but looks like he's six.

At the beach we go to, there are various areas where businesses have concessions to rent out chairs and parasols. Some have wooden gazebos set up, too.  The friendly owner of the particular concession we'd been to last time had given me his phone number. I texted him that we were coming with special-needs children—would he please reserve a gazebo for us?

When we arrived, we discovered Roy had saved us the one closest to the water that connected to the boardwalk. Wow, I'd forgotten to mention it in my text, but he'd remembered we had a kid in a wheelchair.  

We were intending to spread out sheets and just picnic on the wooden floor, but within minutes, he had brought us chairs and tables. When he noticed my friend had trouble easing into the low beach chair, he brought three more to stack them, so she'd have a higher chair. He did the same for some of the kids. With boundless enthusiasm, he lined the sunny side of the gazebo with parasols. And as the sun moved across the sky throughout the day, he kept moving those parasols for us, too.

But I eyed the array of extra chairs and more tables than we really needed, plus the parasols and added them all up in my head. This was going to be expensive. Whatever—might as well make it nice for the kids, I figured.

We thanked Roy and Eli went up to shake his hand. Roy was so taken by him and the other kids that he couldn't do enough for us. The whole day, either he or his father, who works with him, kept stopping by to make sure we didn’t need anything. Sometimes people aren't so welcoming of families with special kids, so we were very grateful.

Roy offered to take the kids up to the lifeguard tower to meet the off-duty guards. Next thing we knew, Eli was waving at us from the window way up high. The kids got a tour of the all the emergency equipment. They stood on a surfboard and sat in a canoe.  They were in seventh Heaven.

Spot the surfer?
After I retrieved the kids from their impromptu field trip, Roi started asking me about Eli and his mom, who is also disabled. I told him how Eli's father had left them when Eli was two, unable to handle having a son with Downs. No one's heard of him since. Usually, people hear this story and make sympathetic faces. But Roy was so shocked that he froze.

"How can a father do that? How can any man do that?" he asked, incredulously. I shrugged—unfortunately, I know too many of these stories to be shocked by such behavior.

"No, really," Roy insisted. "My sister adopted two foster kids and she's also alone. I'm over there every day. I go over all the time, so those kids know they might not have a father, but they've got an uncle. Kids need a man in their life!"

I couldn't have agreed more, but I was touched by this guy's passion about it. We talked some more and it turned out he volunteers regularly with special-needs kids. Well, that explained why he was so good to us, I thought.

But we weren't the only ones he was being good to. Roy sent his father to us with an enormous platter of watermelon.  The kids were too excited about it for me to turn it down and say we'd brought our own food. Add another expense to the bill, I thought. 

Roy's father stayed to chat a few minutes and told me later that Roi had hired him when he realized how depressed his father had become once he'd retired. "I was a little lost, and driving my wife crazy," he admitted. "So now I work for my son," he chuckled. "I get to be a beach bum all day—what could be better?"

"He's getting married in two weeks, you know," he added. "They're moving so they can be in walking distance of us and of her family, too."

Wow. Families that stick together. I wanted to cry to know that still exists.

Later in the afternoon, Roy showed up with ice creams for everyone. Eight of them —that's got to be at least another $20, I added mentally.  Whatever, for one day in the summer, let's live it up.  Besides, by then the kids had ripped them open and had chocolate melting all over their chins.

We stayed longer than we'd expected. The sun was low in the horizon when we decide we had to go home. We packed everyone up. Then I went looking for Roi to settle up the bill. The guy really had treated us extra special. No matter how much it is, I told myself, I'm going to give this guy a really good tip.

He saw us, all packed up, and came over to say goodbye. He shook all the kids' hands.  Then Eli gave him a hug and just had to give him a blessing. That's what Eli does—when he meets someone he really likes, he insists on putting his hands on their heads and giving them a blessing. The boy can't talk, but his meaning comes through loud and clear anyway.

And then, Roy refused to take any money. At all. I tried to insist. 

"No way," he said. "I let you think you'd pay so you would feel okay about accepting things, but this is my treat."  He grinned. "It's for me, it makes me feel good!" he said, in the nicest way, as if we were the ones doing him a favor by not making him take money. "And next time, you better tell me when you're coming too," he said to the kids.

Next to us, an older man on a lounge chair was watching. I saw him wipe a tear from his eye.

I couldn't cry till I got home and got everyone to bed. But in a world that lately seems so full of creeping darkness, it was so good to know there are still a few angels out there.

Oh and, yes, I do think I feel a surfer/beach hunk romance novel percolating in the back of my mind!

Milou Koenings is a USA Today best-selling author. She writes romance because, like chocolate, stories with a happy ending bring more joy into the world and so make it a better place.  

Her Green Pines sweet romances, Reclaiming Home and Sweet Blizzard are available on Amazon and

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  1. A precious story! Thank you for telling us about your beach trip and the wonderful day. Special memories.

  2. In that case, the trip is tax deductible!

  3. Such a beautiful story. Love shows it self in unexpected places. Milio always suprises my heart and warms ny soul. I belive in kindness and goodness again.Thank you for sharing and inspiring ..Keep on Writing!!!we all need more of your stories

  4. A beautiful and uplifting story. This guy is a true hero in every sense.

  5. Thanks, Milou, for sharing that wonderful story.

  6. Oh, wow, Milou! Your lovely story makes me teary eyed. How awesome to know there are still "good guys" out there willing to help others.