By Mark A. Leon
Being intimately engulfed in the Charleston landscape, I can attest there is something special here that embodies the core principles of friendliness.
I would like to share six (6) very personal accounts. These testimonies are just a snapshot of the remarkable Charleston stories that fill the air all around these parts.
Charleston Love and Kindness Can Be Felt All Around
Neighborhood Flood Relief: I lived on the corner of Morris Street and Rutledge Avenue when I first moved to Charleston. Being new to the area, downtown flooding was more of a myth than a reality. One afternoon, while working from home, I was taken back by a steady downpour beating against my window. Perhaps it was a feeling or just the need to take a break, but I put on my best weather proof clothes and went outside. The corner of Morris and Smith had become a river and many cars were trapped in the mayhem. Myself and several neighbors, without hesitation, went car by car helping drivers push their vehicle from the ravage flooded area. It was a gesture of neighborly support and one of the first truly unwavering acts of generosity I had experienced here.
The Day After Mother Emanuel AME: On the Thursday morning after the Mother Emanuel shooting, I went to the Battery to watch the sunrise and clear my head, allowing time to process what had transpired just a few hours earlier. It was ten minutes after six in the morning, the sky was clear, early humidity filled the air with a thick warmth and all was quiet. I said hello to some passing joggers and then sat on a bench at White Point Garden. A wonderfully sweet local walked by with her dog and sat next to me. Her companion, an older canine pressed up against my leg, laid down and nestled by me. The woman began to talk, not about the shooting, but the morning, her love of dogs and the neighborhood. After she departed, two other ladies came by asking about my faith and gave me information pamphlets. They smile and walked away. I don’t know if they knew and weren’t ready to talk about it, but I took comfort in those very early conversations with the backdrop of the rising sun over the harbor to symbolize a new beginning.
A Fallen Baby Bird: On a spring morning, I met a friend for an early morning walk and coffee at White Point Garden. We were saddened to see that a baby bird had fallen from its nest and injured itself. A local area doctor, while walking his dog, saw the wounded bird as well and offered to get a box and mesh to transport it. He went home a few blocks away and returned with the transport material. We carefully put the frightened bird in the box and I offered to take it to a Vet in West Ashley that we were fortunate to find open. This incredibly selfless doctor who had a scheduled surgery did everything he could to help us until he was forced to the hospital. I received a call later that day from the veterinarian’s office that they had to put the bird down. All I could do was think about the sound of the scared bird as I drove to West Ashley and knowing it was its last moments. Then I remembered the kindness of three people who put their lives aside to try and save this newborn bird.
A Moment of Humanity for a Homeless Man – It was a Sunday morning in December, 2017 and I will on King Street at 8:45 AM awaiting the City Church Service at the Charleston Music Farm. A homeless man, bundled up and pushing a grocery cart, was on the sidewalk heading South. As he slowly moved in front of the Glazed Doughnut Shop and took a rest, a student noticed him. He quickly bought a doughnut and cup of coffee and walked outside to present to the homeless man. They shook hands, exchanged a few kind words and then the student went back inside as the homeless man warmed up and put food in his tummy. It was a heartwarming moment amount two strangers at very different places in life.
A Surfer’s Smile Can Change Your Day – Just a few weeks ago, I had just had Turkish Coffee a Center Street Coffee on Folly Beach and then walked to the beach to watch the waves and do some meditative activities. A young surfer, about 5’2″, curly red hair and a smile that could move all the clouds that morning, asked me for assistance taking her board out of her bag (chalk had made it stick). I helped her and she smiled. About 10 minutes later, she entered the sand with her board over her head and as she walked near me she smiled and said hey. That exchange gave me such a fulfilling feeling. I later went into The Tides, got a paper and pen, and wrote that surfer a thank you note for making my day with just a simple smile.
A Baby Sea Turtle Rescue Story – It was last summer, on an early morning sunrise walk on Folly Beach that we discovered a baby sea turtle with a limp front leg. Nelson (our name for him), had hatched just a few hours earlier, but with the injury did not have the strength to make it into the ocean with the tide coming in. We contacted Animal Control and the Aquarium and were instructed to assist Nelson into the ocean. We did and later found out he was the only survivor of all the eggs that were laid in that spot. Click the link for the entire story.
These are just a few of the hundreds of Charleston stories. The country witnessed our unwavering resolve during the Mother Emanuel Shooting, Hurricane Matthew, Hurricane Irma and the 1000 Year Rains, but it is the very personal individual stories and acts of kindness that go without credit that illuminates this city.
Take some time to sit down with the locals and listen to their stories. You will understand truly how much this award means to us.
We would love to hear your stories.