The morning sun inched from the sea into a cloudless sky. Boo Waters walked through the
sand with his surfboard tucked under his tan, muscular arm. He had two hours to practice before
the Sandbridge Surf Contest.
Boo trotted into the water, jumped on his board, and paddled toward the orange horizon.
While he power-stroked over the breakers, he spotted a chest-high swell forming outside. In
a smooth move, he straddled the board and swirled his feet clockwise until he faced the shore.
After dropping to his stomach, he shoveled cupped hands into the water and paddled hard until
the wave lifted him. Immediately, he was on his feet and slicing hard to his right. Shooting down
the open-faced wave, Boo noticed a kid on the beach frantically waving his arms and jumping up
As Boo rode the wave into the shallows, he wondered if there was a problem. The closer he
got, a teenage boy with a huge, white-toothed smile, waved frantically.
“Hey, buddy! Something wrong?” Boo yelled, hopping from his board in knee-deep water.
The grinning boy wobbled toward him on thin, shaky legs, skinny arms flailing. “Wike dat,
mister. Wike see you do dat. It neat.”
Before Boo had a chance to analyze the scene and reply, a loud voice bellowed from the
nearby oceanfront cottage. “Jimmy Lee, git yo butt back here! Told ya not ta git neer dat water!”
Suddenly, a flash of Boo’s past filled his head. He recalled his college years working with
kids in Special Olympics, and realized this young teen suffered from Palsy. Shaking the past
from his head, he smiled and asked, “You like surfin’?”
The wide-eyed boy bounced up and down. “Uh-huh! Look fun.”
The heavy-set woman stumbled down the cottage steps and plowed through the sand,
her head wobbling back and forth as if on a spring. Approaching, she hollered between
gasps, “Leave da man be, Jimmy Lee! He ain’t got time fo’ you.”
Boo placed his board on the beach, noticing the boy’s tears dripping onto dry sand. Offering
his hand for a sandy high-five, he calmly said, “My name’s Boo. You’re Jimmy Lee?”
After a deep sniffle, the teenager kept his head down and nodded, but his big brown eyes
peeked up and made contact with Boo’s. His thin hand slapped Boo’s. “Yo name, Boo? Dat’s
funny. I stay in Atlanta, Georgia.”
The winded woman stomped up and stopped, sucking in big gulps of air. “Mister, don’t pay
my boy no mind. He ain’t right.”
Stings of anger and hurt raced through Boo’s nerves, singeing his heart. Without looking at
the woman, he replied, “Nice to meet you, Jimmy Lee. Yeah, buddy, Boo’s my nickname.”
The woman growled, “Jimmy Lee, tell da man bye. We gotta go.”
As if deaf, Jimmy Lee knelt in the sand and ran his brown trembling fingers over the white
surfboard. His head bobbed up and down as he whispered, “Smooth.”
A smile filled Boo’s face. “Yep, it’s made from foam and fiberglass.”
Jimmy Lee looked up with big brown eyes and nodded. “Can I hold it?”
The woman’s screeching voice sliced into their conversation. “Jimmy Lee! Git yo hands
off’n dat thing. Da man don’t want ya breakin’ his stuff. We can’t ‘ford to pay fer it.”
Boo slowly knelt down beside Jimmy Lee and looked up at the woman. “Ma’am, he can’t
hurt it. I understand what you’re sayin’. I’ve worked with special kids, and –”
She leaned close to her boy and said, “Ya don’t know nuthin’. It’s hard puttin’ up wid him.
Jimmy Lee, come on, we goin’.”
The excited, but dejected young man struggled to his feet, white sand salting his boney
knees. “Mama, all’s I wanna do is lay on it…in da water.”
Before the upset woman spoke, Boo said, “Ma’am, I’ve got another surfboard and a life vest
at my house across the street. I’ll be happy to get ‘em…if you’ll let Jimmy Lee go out and paddle
around with me. He’ll love it. And I’ll watch over him.”
Jimmy Lee jumped up and down, lost his balance, and toppled backward into the
sand. “Lemme, Mama, please,” he said with pleading eyes, lying flat on his back.
The woman looked at her son, paused, and then focused her stare on Boo. “You ain’t gonna
let my boy get hurt, is ya? He’s crippled…he can’t swim.”
Boo walked over to the lady and whispered, “Ma’am, there’s not many things for God’s
special children to do…to be like other kids they see everyday. I believe the ocean lets everyone
become a part of something so much bigger. Ma’am, that’s a good thing. If you’d like to see
your little boy real happy...let him go out and float around. I promise, I’ll be right beside him the
Her hard brown eyes softened and glassed over with tears. “Okay, sir. I’m gonna go gits my
man to come an watch.”
Boo turned, biting his lower lip, and feeling his throat tighten. “That’s fine,” he whispered.
Looking at Jimmy Lee, he said, “I’ll be right back, buddy.”
A broad smile preceded, “Otay, Boo!”
Several minutes later, Boo raced across the warming sand with another board and a bright
orange vest. He smiled upon seeing the lady and a large man standing beside Jimmy Lee, holding
Boo said, “Here’s your life vest, Jimmy Lee. All first-time surfers wear these.”
“Otay,” replied the grinning young man.
After the vest was on, Boo walked beside Jimmy Lee into the water, helping him onto the
board and showing him how to paddle. They laughed and talked like regular surfers as Jimmy
Lee paddled into the beautiful blue-green ocean. Life was good for both of them.
Boo took notice of how natural Jimmy Lee looked lying on the board, stroking through the
white water. Through a smile, he said, “Okay, dude, sit up and straddle the board. Relax.”
Jimmy smiled. “Dis easier dan walkin’. I like floatin’. Tanks, Boo.”
Boo scanned the ocean and silently prayed for one small wave. “Hey, buddy, wait til you tell
your buddies you surfed.”
Splashing his hands in the cool water, Jimmy Lee mumbled, “Won’t believe me. Da always
pokin’ fun at me. Ain’t gonna tell ‘em.”
Boo blinked his eyes, remembering how cruel kids can be to others. He took a breath of salt
air. “Buddy, none of your friends are doing what you are today. Don’t you ever let their silly
words bother you. You’re now a surfer, dude.”
With a slight nod, Jimmy Lee splashed the water and whispered, “Otay.”
Boo looked up and spotted his answered prayer approaching. “Jimmy Lee, lay on the
board. Get ready to paddle. When I say, ‘stand up’, try to get on your feet. Ride straight in to the
“Otay,” Jimmy Lee replied, looking with excitement-filled eyes into the horizon.
Boo reached over and placed his hands on the back of Jimmy Lee’s board. “When you feel
the wave pushing you, stand up. If you don’t, that’s okay. We’ll keep trying, dude.” Boo timed
the push with the small swelling wave. “Get it, little buddy.”
Jimmy Lee struggled and pushed up from his belly to his knees, wobbled for a few seconds,
and plopped back onto his stomach. It didn’t matter because the boy rode the swell right onto the
beach. His laughter exploded across quiet shoreline. His parents clapped and cheered as their son
hopped from the board and awkwardly stomped toward them.
Boo wiped salty tears from his eyes and shot Jimmy Lee a thumb up. Boo knew he’d
missed the Sandbridge Surf Contest. It doesn’t matter; Jimmy Lee and I win today.
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