It had been a bitter cold week in New York so, when the temperatures broke the thirty degree mark in East Quogue, it felt like a heat wave.
Sunday morning started off like most Sunday mornings except that instead of getting up around 6:30 AM I got up around 9:00 AM. Despite my Sunday morning sloth, I got up and dressed and out of the house earlier than most Sundays.
In addition to getting out earlier, I refrained from wearing one of my many New York Yankee hats or New York Jet hats. I didn’t wear a Yankee or Jet sweatshirt or a Yankee or Jet jacket. I cannot say I was happy about any of this.
Eileen and I were determined to get out in the sun and do something other than chores and food shopping. We were in the car at eleven and made our way to Roses and Rice, our local florist. It’s a great store and the owner has been selling my book for a couple of months. I spoke with her Saturday and suggested a special combination sale, flowers and a book. Look on Facebook later this week. Anyway, I was going to drop off ten copies of A Bronx Boy’s Tale. Unfortunately, the store was closed when we stopped by. Now it was off to the Quogue Library.
We checked out the library, sat in a lovely sitting room in front of a roaring faux fire place. It was really faux, consisting of a red light bulb for the roaring part.
We talked and then decided to head for the beach. We went over the Quogue Bridge and thought about go to the private Quogue Beach but I thought better of it. I had no desire with having to explain myself to the Quogue Police and so we opted to go a little further west on Dune Road to Rogers’ Beach in Westhampton Beach. This proved to be an important decision.
We pulled into the parking lot and it was just a marvelous day. It was so sunny my sunglasses were mostly ineffective. There was no wind which made the 31 degrees seem mild. We started up the stairs and walked on the short boardwalk to a patio. From there we could see the expanse of the beach and the nearly waveless ocean beyond. I was struggling to take a picture and could not make anything out by looking at my phone. Then, almost out of nowhere, a figure on the beach made his way up toward us.
At first I was concerned as he looks like he was wearing robes of some sort. He also had a beard and stocking hat. But as he got closer I could see that he had a rope belt and was wearing sandals. Clearly, he was a clergyman.
He immediately greeted Eileen and I and was kind enough to offer to take our picture. After he took our pictures we started talking and we introduced ourselves. He told us he was a Franciscan Brother from the BRONX! Eileen and I started laughing and we regaled our story to our new friend Brother Simon.
Remembering the books that we could not drop off at Roses and Rice Eileen turned to me and said, “You must give him a copy of your book.”
Well, we got talking about the Bronx and about the book and he was so very nice to us. We did give him a copy and he asked that I sign it and inscribe a blessing to him, which I did. We told him about the book that Eileen and I are working on and he was so touched that he wanted to pray with us, right there at the beach.
We prayed and then I told him about one of the common themes of Eileen’s portion of the book…there are no coincidences.
Eileen and I did not think that meeting Brother Simon was a coincidence. We needed to meet Brother Simon. He reminded us about what it is to be happy. You see, the moment we met Brother Simon we were both struck by his joy. It was visible. It was palpable. When we told him about our story he took us under his wing and hugged us both. It wasn’t a hug of pity or sorrow but…well, there are no coincidences.
As he left us we went back to the patio and then I heard him calling my name as he was running towards us from the parking lot with something in his hand…
“Here Jimmy take this, you don’t have a hat.”
There are no coincidences.