It was the broomstick that caught our attention first.
At home, just 40 minutes away from the beach, the smoke from the California wildfires was wreaking havoc on our lungs. In an effort to get away for a few hours from the hazardous air quality, we jumped in the car and headed to the beach.
We were hoping the air at the beach would be a little more breathable, and it was.
As we pulled into the parking lot by the bay, we looked to our left. There was a nice little sportscar next to us…with a broomstick visible in the passenger seat.
It looked strangely out of place in the front seat of the sports car.
Then a lady walked around from the driver’s side, opened the passenger door and pulled out the broom.
We stepped out of our vehicle and her eyes were immediately drawn to the kids.
“How are you?” she asked. “What grade are you in?”
“This lady loves kids,” I thought to myself as the kids chatted with her.
“I’m a retired school teacher,” were the next words out of her mouth.
“I come out here twice a day to sweep the boardwalk. There are a lot of older folks walking, and the sand just blows up across the walkway. I don’t want anyone to trip, so I sweep the walkway.”
We went on down to the beach as she started sweeping.
I sat on the beach breathing in the fresh air, my headache dissipating along with the tightness in my chest. Claire stomach ache began to disappear, Corrine’s lungs opened up, and before long, the kids were racing down the beach, playing and searching for creatures hiding in the rocks.
The retired school teacher kept sweeping. She pushed her broom from one side of the boardwalk to the other, pausing to let people walk by. She swept the entirety of the boardwalk then sat down on a bench and looked out over the bay.
I wanted to know more. Why did she sweep? What had her life been like? How often did you come?
As she walked back to her vehicle, we headed back to ours.
I struck up a conversation again, and I started asking my questions.
She said people call her Broomin’ Hilda. When she retired to moved to the area, she wanted to do something to help out her community.
One day she was walking on the boardwalk and noticed how much sand there was and thought to herself, “I can sweep!”
So, she started coming down to the bay twice a day to sweep. Twice. Every day.
“I love that you do this,” I said.
“Oh,” she smiled and laughed. “My son is the generous one.” She proceeded to tell me about her famous and successful son.
We chatted for a few more minutes, and I thanked Hilda for her generosity.
As I got in the vehicle and drove home, I reflected on our conversation. I loved how fiercely she loved her son and was so proud of him. I loved how she saw a need and just did it. It wasn’t grand or glorious. She swept sand. And that same sand would return with relentless persistence. And she would sweep again. With a smile on her face.
That’s what true generosity is all about. It doesn’t wait until it has large sums of money in the bank. It doesn’t get discouraged if nobody notices. It doesn’t care that it has to keep giving without much reward.
Thank you, Broomin’ Hilda, for showing me what true generosity is all about.
I’m learning to stop waiting for someday and start pushing my broom, today.