Crawfish Pie

He was a Rotary member in North Alabama once. He claims that Rotary Club is more than a tin plaque on the welcome-to-our-small-town sign. He says Rotary is changing the world.

A crawfish boil. A big party. This is the kind of deal where you stand in an hour-long line for a box of mudbugs and corncobs spicy enough to require an EpiPen.

The band is loud. They have a washboard, an accordion. They holler in French.

The Rotary Club is putting this on. The tents, the boilers, propane burners, the whole nine-yards.

Rotarians wander through the crowd with yellow wagon-wheels on their shirts. They’re collecting plates, emptying trash, conversing.

The money Rotary Club raises goes toward real charities. Not CEO salaries. Not televangelists with Malibu mansions and saltwater swimming pools. Ninety-one percent of Rotary money goes out the door into the world.

Ninety-one.

This, I learn this from an old man, standing in the crawfish line. He has a tube running from an oxygen tank to his nostrils.

He was a Rotary member in North Alabama once. He claims that Rotary Club is more than a tin plaque on the welcome-to-our-small-town sign. He says Rotary is changing the world.

It’s a bold statement.

“We’re teaching illiterate folks,” he says. “Donating to small-town farmers, giving clean water to third-world countries.”

He’s as passionate as any Holiness preacher.

“Joined when my wife died,” he goes on. “Was lonely as hell, I needed friends, and they ALWAYS have food at meetings.”

When he first joined, he attended a few gatherings, then missed three weekly meetings.

Depression claims many a man.

One Saturday, three Rotary men came to his house unannounced with six-packs and fried chicken.

“Wouldn’t get off my doorstep,” he says. “We watched a game, had a few laughs. They were really concerned about me. I’m telling you, this ain’t just a club.”

He and I find a seat beneath a white tent and listen to the band play, “Jambalaya.”

The crawfish makes my nose run.

He is chatty. He talks about life. About his daughter. He says he has stage-four cancer.

All I can do is say, “I’m sorry,” like a thirty-five-pound dumbbell.

He tells me doctors gave him bad news. Very bad news. His daughter is having a hard time with it.

A man in a Rotary shirt takes our empty crawfish boxes. He asks if anyone wants refills on beer.

My old friend wants another cold one. His days are earmarked, if he wants more Budweiser, he deserves to carpe this diem as much as he can.

Rotary Shirt hands him a fresh beer. The band plays something peppy. People dance. A white-haired man dances with an infant. An elderly lady in a Rotary shirt shows off her new hip.

A woman sits beside my old friend. She introduces herself as his daughter.

Like most people here, she wears a Rotary shirt. I ask how she got involved with the club.

“Oh, I’m not a member,” she says. “This is Dad’s old shirt. I’m wearing it ‘cause I wanna be just like him when I grow up.”

He kisses her cheek. She holds his hand. They say a hundred and ten words in one look.

I’m glad I came tonight.

I wouldn’t mind having one of those shirts.

16 comments

  1. Noah - May 10, 2017 12:02 pm

    As a Rotary Club member in Fairhope, AL, I appreciate the kind words about our service organization. We have a lot of fun together, but we also raise money for charities close to home and around the world. I am glad you had your experience both with Rotary, and your new friend. Mostly I am glad for those men who showed up on his doorstep years ago to make smiles and memories that have lasted for years, and continue to make new smiles and memories. May we all see the needs around us, and share a smile and some love.

    Reply
  2. Mark - May 10, 2017 12:47 pm

    I think I’m hooked. You are an amazing writer. Thank you

    Reply
  3. Sam Hunneman - May 10, 2017 1:15 pm

    On a day when I’m having visions of 1950’s USSR… poor people standing in line for bread while the proletariat class dines on caviar… the thought of 3 Rotarians bearing gifts is more precious than I can say. Here, the Grange is making a comeback.

    Reply
  4. Tom - May 10, 2017 1:23 pm

    Yea, us old folks. When my pulmonologist told me a new condition I have is terminal, I replied “I’ve been terminal most of my life”.

    Reply
  5. Anne-Marie - May 10, 2017 2:58 pm

    You make me smile through my tears.

    Reply
  6. Paula Link - May 10, 2017 4:32 pm

    My husband was a member of Rotary until he died. I attended many events with him, and every word that old gentleman said about Rotary is true. I used to be teased about being a better Rotarian than a lot of Rotarians. In fact, thank you for reminding me. I think I’ll go join up!

    Reply
  7. Michael Hawke - May 11, 2017 3:33 am

    Thanks again. Well put. A pleasure to meet you.

    Reply
  8. Clark Kelly - May 11, 2017 2:13 pm

    Loved your story. Great writing.

    Reply
  9. sherry k. - May 11, 2017 11:48 pm

    ‘taint nuttin but a fais dos dos. Really liked this one.

    Reply
  10. Lilli Ann Snow - May 12, 2017 7:25 pm

    Thank you, Sean… for multiplying my gratitude quotient day by day by day.

    I think to myself….”What a wonderful world!”

    Reply
  11. Brian Barstead - May 13, 2017 12:14 am

    Rotarian from Springfield, IL since 1990. My club meets for breakfast every Wed at 7am just around the corner from the Lincoln family home National Historic Site. Beautiful little story, shared with me by a Bama Rotarian Friend. Waging peace and ending loneliness is a good avocation. What’s your shirt size?

    Reply
  12. Sandra Simpson - July 5, 2017 2:38 pm

    I’m sure glad you became a writer. Thank you

    Reply
  13. Gerald Worley - July 5, 2017 3:55 pm

    Every morning along with my devotions, I look forward to Sean’s daily gem of inspiration. We all need that word or two that lifts us beyond our current demise or state of depression . Sean does this with something we all can relate to. May God bless you and keep on giving you these gems!

    Reply
  14. Annette Bailey - July 5, 2017 10:49 pm

    What a wonderful way to spread love to all with a story like this Sean! I’ve had those looks before. I’m looking at my Mom right now and having all those same memories. She sleeps a
    all the time. I watch her in a hospital bed at home where her favorite love seat use to be that she sat in while watching her stories. As you describe the man with stage four cancer, I am reminded when I heard the same words from my sister about Mom. It’s hard and I’m fighting being sad. It’s hard but I’m hoping my 5 siblings and I stick close as we always have. I am reminded also that we must seize the day as much as we can for we aren’t promised tomorrow. Thanks Sean……

    Reply
  15. Ben smith - July 5, 2017 11:22 pm

    Awesome. Sometimes a friend is all a man needs. And crawfish or two. Thanks it’s sure makes a man think about a lots of things.

    Reply
  16. Joyce Heishman - July 6, 2017 1:04 am

    ” They say a hundred and ten words in one look.” I shared that look just before my 46 year old daughter passed away last year. I wish I could have had time to share more looks.

    Reply

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