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It’s St. Petersburg’s Bench, But Al Owns It

The sun rises over the bay in Vinoy Park in St. Petersburg, Florida. Lounging on a bench near the sea wall—his bench—is Al Nixon. “Hi Al!” say the passers-by. “Have a good day!” says Al. For park regulars between 6am and 8am, he’s as reliable as the squirrels or the water fountains. Many who pass stop to chat. Many just give and receive a little wave. Day after day. Al has watched the sunrise from his bench, seven days a week, for years. Everyone seems to know him.

About seven years ago, Al needed to clear his head. Trouble at work, mostly. He found the perfect bench near the sea wall and watched the sun come up. It worked, and he started showing up for sunrise three or four days a week.

One day a complete stranger came up and told Al something he’ll never forget. “I know, when I see you sitting there, that everything is going to be alright.” Al said, “For the first time, I knew there was more of a purpose to me being out here than just soothing my own woes. We have an impact on other people.” Not only did he keep coming, but it became every day, even weekends. He had to do his duty.

Something else happened when he showed up every day. People started confiding in him. They told him about their children, their own childhoods, their finances, and their marriages. At the height of the pandemic, people told Al about loved ones they lost. Al said, “Mostly people just want to be heard. I’ve heard a thousand stories. I don’t consider myself all that smart, or debonair, but I’m a good listener.”

Then at 8am sharp, an alarm sounded on his phone. Al stood up, and walked off. He headed to work, feeling like his job was already done.

Possible Preaching Angle:

1) Encouragement; Friendship; Listening – One of the greatest gifts we can give to others is to listen, to care, and encourage them. 2) Christ, burden bearer; Love of Christ – The greatest Friend we have loves us (Eph 3:18-19), prays for us (Heb. 7:25), and will never forsake us (Heb. 13:5).

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