Written by: Barbara Ann Hall
had fallen, creating an eerie glow of neon against the night sky. It was the dead of winter, but I heard that the nearby city
was always alive.
As I traveled closer, billboards lined both sides of the street, welcoming visitors to a world
where Lady Luck was a man’s best friend.
I felt uneasy driving the streets of such a fast paced, unfriendly
sort of place. Traffic was heavy and people, many walking in crowds, pushed their way through the roaring congestion at every
I managed to safely maneuver my RV into a parking area several blocks past the main strip.
It was dark, almost black, and again I felt uneasy. I prayed, “Father, I know you are with me. Although, I’m sure
you recognize that because of my own insecurity, I’m questioning if this is where we are suppose to be. Of course, I
know better. You have yet to lead my path astray. Thank you for being my rock and my protector. I pray that you shine your
light upon me. Please Father, reassure and comfort me. Open my eyes and my ears so that I may see and hear clearly so that
your will be done.”
Within a few moments, I felt better. “Thank you Father!” I unbuckled my seat
belt, slid my seat back and stretched out my legs. I could smell the salt water as I took several deep breaths. It was getting
late; I wondered if I should wait until morning before wandering about. I wasn’t at all tired, so I decided to take
a walk down to the boardwalk.
If I didn’t know better, I would have thought it was an early summer’s
morning with people flocking for a fun filled day at the beach. Flashing lights created an illusion of Sunshine beaming through
the branches of a shade tree. People, casinos, novelty stores, restaurants, candy shops, tanning parlors, arcades and so much
more lined the boardwalk. As I walked slowly along taking in all the sights, the aroma of French-fries tickled my nose, reminding
me of just how hungry I was!
I stopped at The Dog Pound and got a kraut dog with mustard and onions, an extra large
order of crinkle cut boardwalk fries and large fresh lemonade. I sat down at a corner table and laughed to myself, I
knew why they called it The Dog Pound… eat only one and gain ten!
After a quick blessing, I popped
a couple of fries into my mouth. They tasted even more delicious then they smelled! Just as I was ready to bite into my hot
dog, I noticed a man sitting a table over looking at me. I smiled. He smiled back. A few moments later when he got up to leave,
I couldn’t help but notice that his clothes were well worn, his shoes had holes and he wore no coat despite the cold,
“Excuse me, sir,” I called after him. He stopped and turned around. “I would be
honored if you would join me for a bite to eat.” He looked around, “Are you talking to me young lady?” he
asked. “Yes sir. Would you care to join me for a bite to eat?” He looked uncomfortable, “Are you sure you
want me to join you?” I smiled, “I don’t really like to eat alone, so I’m quite sure. If you’d
like too, that is.” “Well in that case, I’d love too!”
He sat down and introduced himself
as Clarence. He seemed to be a jolly old man. “I’m very glad to meet you Clarence, I’m Barbara. So what
do you say, hot dog and fries?” “Thank you. Chili, cheese and extra onions please!” Clarence said, gleaming
with a smile that stretched from ear to ear.
I placed an order for two extra large chili and cheese dogs with extra
onions, an extra large order of fries and a large cup of coffee. Clarence’s eyes filled with tears when I laid the tray
of food in front of him. “Thank you so much young lady. May God bless you.”
Clarence and I enjoyed
together the best hot dogs and French-fries I’d ever had. “That was delicious!” I exclaimed. Clarence agreed
and thanked me again.
“So does this city ever sleep?” I asked him. He shook his head, “I’ve
lived here for sixty-five years and have never known it to sleep.” “Wow! Sixty-five years in the same place! I
couldn’t even imagine!” I exclaimed. Clarence just smiled at me.
“Where you from?” Clarence
asked me. “For a while now I’ve just been wandering where God leads me.” “I guess that makes us much
the same then child. The only difference is, I seldom leave the boardwalk.”
I asked Clarence if he had any
family. He told me that his wife had passed away many years prior and that his two boys had lives of their own with no room
for him. “But, I have lots of friends!” he was quick to add in his unique and jolly way.
me a walk on the boardwalk. “Come, it will be fun, I’ll give you the grand tour!” As I put on my coat, I
felt convicted. “Clarence, don’t you have a coat?” “I did, but I gave it away last week.” “You
gave it away? But it’s so cold here by the ocean!” I said with concern. “Someone needed it more than I,”
he said without worry.
As we walked along the boardwalk Clarence pointed out several interesting sites, including
a little place that served only snails! “Anyway you like em! Fried, boiled, baked, breaded, you name it, they serve
em!" The look on my face made Clarence quickly point out The Best Little Boardwalk Pizzeria. We both laughed.
A moment later, I heard someone ask, “Ma’am, would you care for a ride? Half price just for you!” It was
a young man pushing a big basket rider for two. “What do you say Clarence, want to ride?” “Personally, I’d
rather walk, but the ride is one of the boardwalk’s oldest attractions. I think you’ll enjoy the experience.”
Clarence and I climbed aboard and each snuggled under a blanket, complimentary placed for passengers on such a cold
winter’s night. I closed my eyes for a moment, totally enjoying the smells of the boardwalk and the crisp sea air against
Clarence was right I did enjoy riding on the boardwalk in the huge basket with wheels. It reminded me
of an oversized baby stroller! As we slowly rode along Clarence told me all about the history of the boardwalk and the city.
He was so well spoken, so intelligent and so uplifting.
As he told his stories, it was as though he painted pictures
in my mind. I could see the sights, hear the crowds, taste the foods, smell the sea and feel the excitement!
paid the young man with a generous tip for the ride. He was so accommodating, pushing well beyond our hour until Clarence
had finished his stories. I think he too was enjoying them.
When we arrived back to The Dog Pound it was well after
midnight. I was quite tired, but Clarence looked wide-awake. “I do believe it is time for us to say goodnight young
lady. I can tell it is past your bedtime. But, I would be honored if you would meet me here again tomorrow night. Perhaps
by then, I may be able to treat you to another of the best hot dogs in town!” Before saying goodnight, I told Clarence
I would be honored to dine with him again and we agreed to meet at six.
Before going to meet Clarence the next
day, I stopped in a little clothing store for men on the main strip and purchased for him a bright red coat. I thought it
was the best color choice for his personality!
I arrived at The Dog Pound a little before six and saw Clarence
sitting on a bench facing out towards the ocean. He looked so cold and so lonely. He appeared to be praying. Not wanting to
disturb him I went inside and sat down at our table. Promptly at six, Clarence entered with a big smile on his face. “Hello
young lady! You are, to me, as lovely as a shining star.” If I wasn’t shining before he said that, I most certainly
I could tell Clarence felt proud to be able to treat me to dinner that night, complete with banana splits
for dessert! When we finished eating, Clarence asked me if I would like to take another ride in the oversized baby stroller.
“Clarence, please don’t feel as though you have to…” He stopped me there, “Barbara,
God truly blessed me today to earn more than enough money shining shoes to treat you to dinner and a ride along the boardwalk.
Please be assured we can enjoy it with no worries.” “Well in that case, I’d love too!” I said with
a smile. “But first, I have something for you.”
When I handed Clarence the bag with the coat I had
gotten for him, his eyes again filled with tears. “Barbara, please don’t feel as though you have to…”
I stopped him there, “Clarence, God truly blessed me yesterday to meet a man that quickly became very dear to me. A
man that didn’t have a coat because he gave it to someone who needed it more than he did, which touched my heart. So
seldom do we meet a kind soul in this weary world. I would be honored if you would accept it and wear it proudly with no worries.”
I had chosen the perfect color for Clarence! He looked radiant in his new red coat as we rode along the boardwalk.
The young man, who had pushed us the night before, recognized us and gladly offered to take us out again.
rode along the boardwalk Clarence told me a story of the city lights. How brightly they shine, guiding so many through darkness.
How encouraging they are. How they help him through times of sorrow and hardships. “Even during the days and on nights
that I can’t see them, just knowing they are there is a comfort to me.” He said that with such passion, such faith.
I wondered why the city’s lights were so important to Clarence.
“Barbara, I know we just met, but I
feel as though you are like the daughter I never had. Like a soul I know well.” My eyes filled with tears. I knew exactly
what he meant, for I too felt as though he was like the dad I never had. I gave him a gentle hug.
you like to see the city lights?” Clarence asked me with a hopeful look in his eyes. Like the night before, hundreds
of lights lit up the boardwalk as daylight. I wasn’t sure I understood. He must have read my thoughts, because he chuckled.
“Close your eyes. Now, imagine Jesus in all his glory shining as the brightest star in the sky. Can you see Him?”
I nodded. “Good. Now imagine all His angels surrounding Him. Imagine how brightly they would all shine dressed in white
with crowns of gold upon their heads. See them?” I did! I did see them! I nodded. “Now lay your head back on the
seat and open your eyes.” When I opened my eyes I saw hundred of shining white stars in the night sky! And they did
look to me like hundreds of angels surrounding Jesus, the biggest and brightest star in the sky! I gasped. Once again Clarence
painted the perfect picture, one of faith and hope and love.
When the young man returned us to The Dog Pound, he
would take no money from Clarence. He told him that he was already blessed by his stories and thanked Clarence for giving
him a new perspective on life.
Clarence thanked me again for the coat. I thanked him again for dinner and the ride along
the boardwalk and for sharing his stories with me. “These two days have truly been a blessing to me, Clarence. So enlightening,
so uplifting, so full of love. I thank God for sending you into my life.” Clarence gave me a huge hug and said, “Sometimes
we ourselves have the power to invite good things into our lives.” He smiled. “Good night young lady. I look forward
to seeing you again tomorrow night.”
When I arrived at The Dog Pound the next night, I didn’t see Clarence
so I waited out front. It was nearing six-thirty and I began to worry a bit. That’s when I heard in my spirit, as Clarence
would say, “don’t worry” and it made me smile. As I looked around, I saw sitting on the bench that Clarence
had sat on the night before, a little boy about ten years old wearing an oversized men’s coat. I looked up into the
sky and the brightest star winked at me. Just then a shooting star shot brightly along the stretch of the boardwalk, and just
for a moment, I thought I saw a flash of red!
I went inside and bought two hot dogs, fries and lemonade. Then I
walked over and sat on the bench beside the little boy. “Hot dog?” “Thank you ma’am… Chili,
cheese and extra onions, my favorite!” “I had a hunch it might be.” I said with a smile.
sat eating our hot dogs, I looked up into the night sky and thanked the city lights for leading me to the one person who needed
Clarence’s coat more than he.
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