A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength. Proverbs 17:22 (NLT)
One of the historical museums I help to oversee is located in the Village of Cortez. Cortez is one of the last real working waterfronts in the State of Florida. It was founded by fisherman from North Carolina in the 1880s and their descendants still live in Cortez and make their living from the sea. The people have worked hard to preserve their community, not just with a museum, but keeping the village’s environment as it has been for over a hundred years. They lobbied and won special zoning that allows fisherman to hang their nets and store their boats in their yards. Forming a non profit organization, they have bought historic buildings to keep them from being demolished and wetlands to keep them from being turned into condominium developments. When you go to Cortez, you can walk through upland hammocks and over bridges built by large businesses. These villagers are no dummies and have sold corporate America on bringing their administrators to Cortez to build bridges and clear trails as “team building” exercises. This summer, the village is hosting groups of children from our local Boys and Girls club every Monday afternoon. Today, I went along as the children toured a FISH House and visited the Coast Guard Station. They got a thrill out of the big freezers, the piles of ice used to keep the fish fresh on the boats and the forklifts moving boxes and bins of fish to and fro. They learned about flounder and how it has two eyes on one side, fingered bait fish and watched mullet jump. Their tour guide was the fourth generation of a fishing family, and you could see she enjoyed giving the tour as much as the children enjoyed experiencing it. From there, we walked to the Coast Guard Station where a young man and young woman told them how the kitchen was called the gallery, the dining hall, the mess, and the stairs, the ladder. They got to go onto a boat, see the electronics and the gun mount and hear about the kind of calls that the Coast Guard answers. For many of the children, this was the first time they had ever been on a boat much less one with a machine gun mount on the bow. Just as the children finished their tour, the siren rang and Coast Guardsmen poured from the building to board a boat and rescue the crew of a boat taking on water. An impressive way to end the afternoon. I kept thinking about these hardworking people, providing food for our community and the world, protecting our shores and the people who go to sea. The young woman who gave our tour had “17:22” tattooed on the back of her neck. When I asked her what it meant, she said, it referred to Proverbs 17:22. What a fitting verse for someone in such serious work. No matter what our jobs, we can choose between strength giving joy and strength sapping bitterness.