Natural Ice. Cigarette smoke. Confederate flags.
Their bikinis and my heart were two sizes too small that day. As I sat on the Tybee Island public beach with my friend, my inner Negative Nancy beat my inner Compassionate Cathy to a pulp.
“Ugh! I can’t even see or hear the ocean,” I said. “I come to the beach to gaze out into the water and commune with God and walk in peace. And there is no way that’s happening with all of these people and their loud country music, not to mention that mother who won’t stop screaming at her child.”
The sand was hot and so was my head. I took offense at everyone around me.
“Where did all of these people come from?,” I asked. “I don’t like the fact that I’m saying this, but can we go to a beach tomorrow where we won’t have to deal with the general public?”
“Like where?,” my friend asked.
“A state park,” I said.
“A state park? Aren’t those CREATED specifically for the general public?”
“Yeah, yeah,” I said. “But they don’t sell alcohol. There are no bars, restaurants, tattoo parlors, or surf shops. The general public won’t be there.”
The state park was exactly what I had in mind. Miles of empty beaches. No commercial development. No Natural Ice, cigarette smoke, or confederate flags in sight. No blaring country music; all I could hear was the sound of the ocean waves crashing onto the sand. It was like heaven.
Late that afternoon, our paradise was interrupted, when we noticed a woman and her two children sinking in water above their heads. We swam out to help, and on our way back to shore, we got hung up and beat up by a sea wall covered in oyster shells.
When I broke free from the sea wall and swam back to a place where my feet could touch the sand, I began to cry and shake uncontrollably. Putting pressure on my feet felt like walking on nails. My hands, arms, and torso stung and throbbed. My knees buckled. I looked up.
The general public was running down the beach and into the water toward us.
Three men picked me up and carried me over the sand. A woman and her teenager spread towels for me to sit on. Two other women came over with bottled water and started pouring it on my wounds. Another man started to look me over. I was bleeding everywhere.
Another man pulled out a First Aid kit.
Gauze. Tape. Pressure. Cool water.
Two men carried down their beach umbrellas and held them over me, my friend, and the mother we had helped. A young boy came over and offered us snacks and his soft drinks.
I had stopped crying. I was going to be OK. A dozen strangers were attending to me, wiping my forehead with cool rags, asking me where it hurt, and telling me that everyone had made it out safely.
The General Public had come to my rescue.
Karma and justice would suggest that the General Public should have left me to bleed and fend for myself that afternoon, given the way I had snubbed them and put them down the day before.
But to my surprise, the General Public became my Good Samaritans.
They didn’t know me. They didn’t know whether I liked the same things they liked or believed the same things they believed. They didn’t know whether or not I had some terrible disease that they could have contracted by touching my open wounds. They just saw that I was in distress and pain, scooped me up, and took care of me.
It was like heaven.
Score one for the General Public.