Wrote this last week after spending the evening walking the Lido beach in Sarasota, FL.
I walked through the surf on Lido beach, on the Gulf Coast, and the first thing that struck me was how different it was from Siesta. We had visited Siesta the day before. It was packed with people, many of them tourists and vacationers, much like we were. It seemed like they were all there for the same reason – Siesta is one of the most famous beaches in America, and so it much be the best place to go. What was missing, I found at Lido.
There’s a beauty and serenity at Lido. It’s not that there aren’t people; there are. But the difference is that at Lido, I can see the story in these people. They’re here for a reason deeper than the commercial draw of a place like Siesta. Lido doesn’t show up on any national lists of must-see beaches. It barely made a side not in a Florida visitor’s guide as being close to St. Armand’s circle. The people at Lido are there because they have their own reasons.
I walked by an older man, what little hair he had left white with many years. He greeted me with a wide smile, a wave, and a “Good evening, young man!” He waved with his left hand, and I caught the glint of his wedding ring. Where’s his wife? Is she too ill or frail to come down to the beach, but he just can’t resist coming down, even if he has to be away from her to do it? Or maybe he spends so much of his day caring for her that this is his one chance to get some time to himself. Perhaps the ring is a memento of a woman he’s had to bury, and he comes to remember the many walks along the beach they shared.
I keep walking, keeping my eyes open for unique shells. After all, I’m at this beach for a reason, too. My wife was here too, and she loved finding the shells on the beach. She wanted me to be sure to see it, so I made a point of coming here.
I nearly walk through a photo shoot, turning abruptly and muttering an apology. The family only smiles and says, “That’s okay!” Mom and Dad, Son and Daughter are all wearing white, standing in the water while a photographer looks for the right shot. Based on the kids’ ages I guess this is a special family vacation to commemorate fifteen years of love and stability. They’ve brought their kids as though to say, “See, children, this kind of commitment is important. Learn from our example and prepare yourselves to do the same.”
I pass a young couple. She looks so happy as she hangs onto his arm. I catch the glitter of a ring on her finger, but his left hand is still bare. Did he give it to her here on this very beach? She smiles at me, dazzlingly pretty and not the least because she’s so happy. He smiles politely and nods, but I see through his guarded courtesy. He only notices me because he’s so proud, because he knows he doesn’t deserve what he has, and he can’t fathom how blessed he is to have her. He hopes everyone sees how lucky he is.
The sun has dipped beneath the horizon and now the moon, full and silvery bright, is lighting my way. A couple passes me from behind. They’re probably in their fifties, he an American and she is clearly from the Orient somewhere. They are talking happily, holding hands like teenagers. She’s acting like a teenager with him. But at the same time they move together with a grace and comfort that speaks of years of familiarity. How long have they been together? Are they walking this beach for the first time, or is this one of many moonlit walks together?
A young man and a woman come my way and pass me. They walk at a little bit of a distance, but are talking animatedly. She looks a little too old for him, but it’s obvious they’re not related. What’s put them on the beach together? Is this the awkward stage where they both acknowledge an attraction, but uncertainty keeps them from acting on it?
Stories. These people all have stories, and I’m just guessing at them. But with each I pass I know there is a story. How different from the day before, when all I could see were bodies, drawn together to fulfill their tourist obligations.
I know, the people at Siesta have stories too. It’s just easier to read them at Lido.
As I walk back to find the others, my pockets now rattling with the shells I’ve found, I’m drawn to think of how we all have our own stories, but we’re also all part of a bigger story. It’s a story that began before time, and it’s a story that doesn’t really have an end. There are endings in it, and will be a big ending that will affect all of us, but in reality it’s a story that will never come to a close.
I look out at the waves. They just keep coming. It almost seems like they’ll keep coming forever. They won’t. Some day even these waves will stop. It may not be for a long time. But the constancy of the waves reminds me that there is one who is without end, the same one whose breath started the first waves, who spirit hovered over the waves at the beginning of all things. He’s the one whose story goes on forever, and he’s bringing me along in this never ending story with him. Even when he brings these waves to an end, he’ll still remain.
And because of him, so will I.
I walk back, and say farewell to Lido. For now. I hope to return some day. I hope to walk this beach with my wife, and I hope that someone sees us walking and wonders what our story is.