Greetings From… Melbourne, FL

By Michael Boyink / mike@douglascountyherald.com

We had reservations.

Because it was winter and it was Florida. And we wanted adjacent sites for an extended stay with friends.

We arrived first. I wanted to check out the campsite before backing the RV in.

And?

Melbourne, Florida

I wanted to check out the neighbors.

Colored hair and odd clothes. A tent with TV and VCR. A desk with computer and printer. A piled-up picnic table. An overflowing trash can.

This wasn’t camping. This was living.

I had reservations.

But it was winter. And it was Florida. 

I backed the RV in.

One of them watched closely. “Nice job,” he called out.

I thanked him. And wondered if it would be money or food he’d ask for next.

Our friends rolled in and set up. I was glad their tall converted bus blocked our view of the tenters. 

We went over to visit. From inside the bus, I looked down – both literally and figuratively – on the people next door. How much of our gear could I safely leave outside?

“Want some tea?”

Angie wasn’t asking us. She had her bus window propped open and was talking to them.

I saw risk.

Angie saw a ministry opportunity.

They accepted. Tea became dinner. Dinner became a campfire. A campfire became a raw conversation about faith and God.

Before we knew it, two conservative, Christian families were friends with a homosexual male couple, a blue-haired American Indian woman, and an out-of-work actor from LA in the middle of a road trip to “find himself.”

The actor soon started asking odd, personal questions. After we answered he’d disappear back into his tent.

And I’d google “identity theft.”

Then a small, padlocked wooden treasure box appeared on our picnic table. It had a leather pouch with a paper clue and key attached.

We gathered around it – four skeptical adults and six excited kids.

Unlocking the box, we found compasses inside. We decoded the clue, got our bearings and started walking. 

We ended up in the park laundromat. We found another clue hidden there, coiled inside a corked glass bottle.

That clue led us to another in the park amphitheater. From there to the senior center. Then the horseshoe pits, the dog park, the archery range, and finally the volleyball court.

The final clue also had a leather map and key. It led us to a marked path in the woods and an “X” of branches laying on the ground.

The kids dug barehanded. They unearthed and unlocked a pirate captain’s treasure box.

Inside?

Pirate’s treasure hunt clues and booty created for us by a campground neighbor in Melbourne, Florida.

All those odd questions finally made sense. Small boxes disguised as ancient books held knitting needles and yarn. Or a journal and art supplies. Or a $50 gift card. Each gift was tailored to that person’s interests.

Yes, there was also a generous gift for me in that buried chest.

But pirate booty wasn’t my treasure that day.

My treasure was what I learned those weeks. About being too judgmental. Too selfish. Too safe.

About what the command to love your neighbor looks like.

Melbourne is on the “Space Coast” of Florida, just 25 miles south of Cape Canaveral. Learn more at melbourneflorida.org.