The Story of the Sunshine Mayor and the Woman Who Inspired Him

Big things are often just small things that are noticed. ~Marcus Zusak

About seven years ago, Al Nixon started going to the beach every morning to watch the sun rise over the ocean. He lives in St. Petersburg, Florida, and watching the sunrise each morning grounded him before his day began.

He thought nothing of this habit, really. He just enjoyed it.

Then, one morning, a woman passing by commented that she saw him every day, on that same bench, watching the sun rise. “Every morning when I see you sitting here, I know that everything is going to be okay,” she said.

That surprised him.

Here he was, making a difference in someone else’s life, just by showing up every morning on a park bench to start his own day.

“That’s when I knew: I needed to pay attention to the people walking past,” he said. “I needed to make eye contact and let people know that we mattered to each other.”

So, he started interacting with people that passed by.

A smile, a nod. A wave. Eye contact.

Soon enough, people started sitting down to chat.

Sometimes they tell him about a problem they’re having and ask for advice. Other times he sits with them in silence, just sharing space with someone who wants company.

He’s a calming, constant presence whose great gift is the ability to listen without judgment and open his heart to everyone. He’s now called the “Sunshine Mayor” of St. Petersburg, and is a bit of a local celebrity.

The Washington Post story about him is full of testimonials from people whose lives he’s touched.

And it all came about because one person thought to tell him that he was making a meaningful difference in her life.

It was only then that he realized that he was making a big impact – and decided to double down in such a spectacular way.

Listen – so often people don’t do something impactful because they think they’re too insignificant, or their contribution won’t matter.

But it took just one woman’s encouragement to show Al that his presence was making a difference in other people’s lives.

Think of what might not have been if on that morning, years ago, she let that encouragement go unsaid?

What if she had stopped herself just before giving that compliment?

Would he have realized that his consistent presence was so calming, and started actively trying to engage with passers by on his own?

Maybe. But probably not.

The impact that you have on the world is far greater than you will ever know. Heck –that woman who walked by Al seven years ago probably still has no idea that she inspired him. She probably has no idea that because of her, he’s brought joy, peace, and calm to hundreds (if not thousands) of people.

All because she gave someone a compliment one morning.

I love stories like this, because they’re a reminder that not only can you be the Al in the story.

You can be the woman walking by.

We can’t always be out front … but we can make a huge difference just by letting other people know what a difference they’re making in the world by doing something special.

So if, right now, you’re just not able to do as much as you’d like – whether because of kids, or jobs, or Life – you can still look around for those moments when you can give an extra bit of encouragement to someone.

Who knows? You might be giving someone the inspiration they need to discover their purpose, to keep going…

…Or to change the world.

Let’s get to work.

P.S. The featured image for this post was taken by the Sunshine Mayor himself, presumably from his bench. That’s a gorgeous view, if I do say so.

Actions for the Week of August 2, 2021

Tuesday: Eviction Moratorium – Somebody’s gotta Step Up

Two actions for Tuesday again, folks – it’s a busy day.

Since last week, my Congresswoman (Go Cori!) has slept on the steps of the Capitol with some colleagues to protest the end of the Eviction Moratorium (which expired on July 31).

Here’s the issue – money was given to the states to handle eviction cases, but the money hasn’t been spent – in many cases because states and localities don’t have a lot of infrastructure or experience to get out the millions of dollars we need to in a short amount of time. There are plenty of stories of people who filled out applications months ago and done everything asked of them – and are just waiting to receive funding.

In any case, the wave of people who will lose housing if the moratorium is not extended is being described as a humanitarian catastrophe. Again – the financial aid is there. We simply need more time to help people.

There’s a lot going on, with the Biden administration pointing out that the Supreme Court said the administration can’t extend the moratorium without Congressional action; the House has now said it’s clear the Senate won’t act and has called on Biden to take action.

Biden has called on the CDC to extend the moratorium, and on local/state governments to do so under their own laws (which wouldn’t be stricken down by the US Supremes). (Elizabeth Warren has a nice short summary of the problem and why she thinks the administration has authority here: The Biden admin’s press statement about what it’s already doing is similarly helpful, and is here: )

So, today we’re going to call or email the White House. The comment line is: 202-456-1111. To send by email, use the comment form here:

Text/script: Hi, I’m calling/writing today because it is critical that the administration do everything in its power to stop the eviction catastrophe that’s going to happen if there isn’t federal intervention. The Delta variant is causing case increases the likes of which we haven’t seen since the beginning of the pandemic, and we have the resources to help people – Congress appropriated and sent the funding to help renters and landlords, but states and localities haven’t had enough time to spend the federal dollars. We need to extend the eviction moratorium.

**Bonus points for you to reach out to your state and local representatives to ask them to extend local eviction moratoriums!

Tuesday: #Recess Can Wait – Our Democracy Can’t: For the People Act Rally with State Legislators at the Capitol

State legislators from across the country will join Indivisible for a rally outside the Capitol TODAY on August 3rd from 12-2pm ET, to demand that Congress stay in session until they pass the For the People Act.

Click here to watch the livestream on the DFAD Facebook Page, August 3 at 12pm ET

In states across the country the freedom to vote is under attack by extremist lawmakers. State legislators have been on the front lines of the fight to protect our democracy, but they are running out of options, and need Congress to step in and take on this fight.

State legislators from across the country will join us for a rally outside the Capitol on August 3rd from 12-2pm ET, to demand that Congress stay in session until they pass the For the People Act.

The For the People Act must be passed and signed into law before the end of summer in order to go into effect before the 2022 midterms, and to prevent the drawing of hyper-partisan maps that threaten to disenfranchise voters, especially voters of color, for the next decade.

Congress must pass the For the People Act and cannot let anything get in their way, including the filibuster. The Senate cannot leave for congressional recess without passing S1, even if that means delaying recess. Recess can wait – our democracy can’t.

After the rally, call your Senators and let them know that democracy has to come before vacation.

Wednesday: Thank Capitol Police

The testimony given by Capitol Police officers last week was harrowing. It was a testament to these officers’ heroism and dedication. They’ve been drug through the mud by Republicans who want to minimize the events of January 6. (Read more about their testimony Here.)

On Monday, two more Capitol Police committed suicide. It’s clear that the officers who responded to the attack are suffering; I can’t imagine being gaslit by the Republican legislators they risked their lives to protect helps.

Let’s show them that we support them, and we are grateful for their service by sending them a note of encouragement this week. I prefer postcards because those don’t have to be opened (takes longer due to security) and your support will be seen by all.

I think it makes sense to address them to the officers we know from testimony, but please add that you support all of the officers who responded to the attack.

For Harry Dunn and Aquilino Gonnell: United States Capitol Police, 119 D St NE, Washington, DC 20510

For Michael Fanone and Daniel Hodges: Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia, 300 Indiana Ave NW. Washington, DC 20001

Thursday: Defend democracy!

Democracy docket has created an excellent roundup of ways to volunteer to protect voting rights. It’s an excellent round up, including both state-based and national opportunities. You should check it out and share with your network!


P.S.: Why don’t you make someone’s day and send this pep talk to a friend or two? I bet they need it.

If you’d like to sign up to get this pep talk and action list in your in-box each week, you can do that here. Welcome, friend!

P.P.S.: If you want to help support this work you can do so via Patreon at or via paypal at
My deepest gratitude in advance.

Thank you for reading. Thank you for writing. I read and respond to every e-mail. (Really! I really do!) We’re in this together. Don’t you forget it.

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