“My power’s turned on
Starting right now I’ll be strong
I’ll play my fight song
And I don’t really care if nobody else believes
‘Cause I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me.”
Three little girls, none more than seven years old, splashed in the Mobile Bay and sang the verses and chorus of “Fight Song” as loud as they could. After the stories of domestic violence and abuse that I have heard over the last few months, I wanted to hug them, protect them and beg them to hang on to that song. I wanted to warn them never to let anyone touch them inappropriately, hit them or tell them they aren’t good enough.
They kept singing.
“And all those things I didn’t say
Wrecking balls inside my brain
I will scream them loud tonight
Can you hear my voice this time?”
Close by, a young woman in a yellow dress sat at the end of the pier, watching the sun set and hoping God would hear her voice this time.
She said she came to sit by the water to set her priorities and find some peace. She lost her job two weeks ago and in a few days she will be homeless. She had been molested by a father figure when she was a child and kicked out by her mother when she was 17. Her stepfather said she had to go. She has no one to turn to and was praying for answers. I listened and gave her places to go for shelter and help to get back on her feet.
She dreams of being a physical therapist like the one who helped her recover from a broken ankle.
“I am kind and care so much about people and it just gets me hurt and used,” she says. “My physical therapist was the one person who encouraged and believed in me. I want to be like her and help people heal on the inside and outside.”
The young woman in the yellow dress with the Capricorn tattoo left with hope that her life will get better.
I have done hundreds of interviews for Our Southern Souls at the Fairhope Pier where many go to find God, comfort, peace, answers, healing, a new direction or to quiet the voices inside our heads.
I go there during my dark times to find God and answers, too. Not in the water, but in the people I meet.
They have been on the verge of suicide or preparing for the day cancer takes them away. Journaling over a first breakup or mourning the anniversary of a daughter’s death. They were waiting for an acceptance letter into graduate school or studying for the final nursing exam.
Some were from Egypt, Palestine, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Chile and Sudan.
There were first dates, lunch dates and motorcycle dates. Pictures for a Quinceanera and a pastor about to preach his first sermon at the church he and his wife started.
One man wore a shirt that said “Sober & Sexy.” He had been sober for nine years, four months and eleven days.
“I come out here by myself to pray and meditate and have God time. If I don’t do that, my day gets real squirrely real fast. Meditation is prayer and the time for God to give me answers. This whole God thing was new to me. I thought God was fire and damnation and I found out he is loving and compassionate. He is so gracious. It is mind-blowing that he would love a drunk like I was.”
There have been engagements, memorials and retirees longing to move here. Mother’s Day cookouts, boys learning to ride bikes, and girls leaving behind middle school with the first swim of summer.
There were lessons from three childhood friends who will soon transition from 69 to 70.
“We have found out the life is not what the nuns told us it would be. You can’t get pregnant swimming in a pool with boys.”
Most of the people I never see again, but I received a text from the girl in the yellow dress a few hours after I met her.
“God sent you and me to the pier for a reason. Thank you for being my answer.”
In a time where everything from groceries and toilet paper to movies and tennis shoes are delivered to our doors, we never have to leave our houses. But we need public places like the Fairhope Pier where we can run into each other and find kindness and maybe a few answers. We need the serendipitous moments where God brings us together for a reason.
We need to watch seagulls fly and nets tossed into the water and to hear little girls sing of being strong.
“Like a small boat
On the ocean
Sending big waves
Like how a single word
Can make a heart open
I might only have one match
But I can make an explosion.”