By Theresa Girard
You may have seen him cleaning up Grape Day Park, selling flowers, or spinning a sign for Kettle Coffee and Tea; he is known by many as an Escondido legend.
Daniel Naylor, nicknamed Dan the Man, is a 31-year-old residing in Escondido who spends his time giving back to his community and interacting with people to brighten up their days. He has a rich history of volunteering. “I would go around to all the different businesses on Grand Avenue and see what I could do to help them out, whether it be taking out the trash, sweeping up, bussing tables, doing whatever. I just want to help as much as I can in life.” To this day, Dan volunteers at the Farmers’ Market and has been for four years. “I help the flower vender by walking all around town, selling bouquets of flowers,” he said.
When asked why he loves giving back to his community, Dan responded: “I love making everybody smile; it makes my job rewarding. And I love being a part of everything and I love life.”
Dan was hit by a car when he was seven years old, giving him Cerebral palsy in the left side of his body, and Ataxia––a condition that causes the body to shake uncontrollably––in the right side of his body, but says he has gained control over the ataxia over the years. “You see”, says Dan when beginning to share his story, “over 23 years ago I got hit by a car and was in a six-month coma and I died 10 minutes before [the coma] three times, but they brought me back…life is a gift and everything is a blessing.”
The accident is a main influence in Dan’s Christian faith. “When I died, I met God, and He told me to go back down, try my hardest, and do my best, and I have been doing that ever since…When I was in my coma I could hear my mom and the doctors talking about me, and the doctors were saying how I wasn’t going to live and my monitor started spiking. I got angry. I said ‘No. I will not die. I am going to live.’ I think God brought me out of my coma. God is my rock; God is my savior; God is my everything.”
Today, Dan is employed by both Kettle Coffee and Tea as a sign spinner, the city of Escondido as a cleaner of Grape Day Park, and is now working on a project with the mayor of Escondido, Sam Abed, and the city manager to help get the homeless get off the streets. His role in the project is to be a bridge between the city and the homeless. “I just talk to them”, he says. “I make their days better by talking to them.”
When asked if he thought if Escondido was sketchy, he said yes, but added that he has never been in a dangerous situation, despite his extroversion towards others.
If you want to meet Dan the Man, stop by Kettle Coffee and Tea on any Friday night to see his stand-up comedy performances. He says, “It’s where all the hipsters hang out. I consider myself a hipster. Hahaha. I’m joking. I’m too hip to be a hipster.”