I am lucky. I’ve spent most of my life as a thick-headed fool. And sometimes, I wish I could go back in time and have a serious talk with Young Me. If I could, I know exactly what I’d tell him.

I’m throwing a barbecue. I invited a few friends over for the holiday celebration. A few turned into a lot. Now I am surrounded.

And I am happy.

I don’t want to get mushy, but I couldn’t be happier if I won the Florida Powerball. There are two kids playing catch in my front yard. People are reaching into coolers full of ice.

One bloodhound is running around—off leash. And one toddler named Grayson is running around—Grayson is wearing a leash.

And I’m standing at a grill. I’m wearing a ten-gallon hat, and an apron my friend bought me.

The apron was a gag gift, it reads: “Never use gasoline to light a grill.”

Friends.

There’s no need for this apron. But aprons help me appear like I actually know what I’m doing. And it’s important to look like you know what you’re doing when cooking raw meat for several innocent bystanders.

The truth is, I am not a good cook. I’m a writer and an accordionist. And writer-accordion-players are only good at bouncing checks, and using-way-too-many-hyphens-in-one-long-sentence.

Case and point: long ago, my wife bought me a grill when we first got married. And before I tell you the rest of this story, I should also explain that it was one of those K-Mart jobs, with an instruction booklet written in Mandarin.

The grill didn’t cooperate. So, like any responsible American problem solver, to light the grill I resorted to using an acetylene blowtorch and gasoline.

Thus, the apron.

Since then, my friends have never let me forget about those foul tasting hamburgers. Neither will they let me forget about the following day, when I attend my cousin’s baby dedication with hairless forearms and no eyebrows.

But today, I’m not worried about food because I’m here with friends. I’m feeling nostalgic.

I’ve known some of these people for a long, long, long time. And they’ve been good to me.

Take Fred and Tom, for instance. We’ve been in a band together since the earth cooled. Tom plays bass. Fred play drums. In the decades we’ve been together we’ve played music everywhere from Nashville to Two Egg.

We’ve played honky tonks—behind chicken wire cages. We’ve played Biloxi. We played a barn dance, just outside Montgomery. And once, we played at the grand opening of a Chik-fil-A. I’m not proud of that.

I’m talking feed-store openings, baby showers, Little League championships, bar mitzvahs, Baptist churches, livestock auctions, colleges, Pentecostal quilt-making parties, beer festivals, and of course every year we play music on the Fourth of July.

So I’m sort of lost in thought, watching my friends. These are people who all have families of their own. People who will mostly be doing the same sorts of things tonight. They’ll watch fireworks, swat mosquitoes, and kiss their children.

And I’ve forgotten what I was talking about. I guess I’m too busy thinking about how lucky I am.

I am lucky. I’ve spent most of my life as a thick-headed fool. And sometimes, I wish I could go back in time and have a serious talk with Young Me. If I could, I know exactly what I’d tell him.

I’d say:

“Don’t listen to people who say that life is all about becoming a success, or building a nice retirement cushion, or owning big real estate, or traveling to Europe, or avoiding-too-many-hyphens-in-one-big-long-string-so-that-it-never-seems-to-end-but-just-keeps-going-until-it-takes-up-several-lines.

“Life is pretty simple, Young Me. In fact, it’s so simple you’re going to chuckle when I tell you what I’ve learned.

“And here it is: you only get a few friends. Not a lot. Just a few. And these friends are it. That’s all there is to life. This is your purpose. Friends. They’re everything.

“Friends aren’t just people, Young Me. They are people who know you. So make as many as you can because there is nothing greater in life than being known.”

But then, you can’t go back in time and tell the young version of yourself all the things that you think you’ve learned. It wouldn’t work. You wouldn’t listen to you.

So I guess what I really want to say is: I’m the luckiest man alive, today. To have you as my friend, and to be here together for however brief of a time we have.

And also.

I’m sorry these hamburgers taste like gasoline.

46 comments

  1. Donia - July 4, 2018 7:43 am

    I’m disappointed to read your negative reference to Chick-Fil-A. It’s my favorite fast food restaurant, and it upholds the quality standards and high moral values of its founder, awards college scholarships to their young employees, and contributes to the local economy.

    Reply
  2. Gary - July 4, 2018 10:23 am

    What Donia said.

    Reply
    • Margaret - July 4, 2018 12:12 pm

      So sad and disappointed to read your negative reference to Chick-Fil-A. Would like to understand the reason for the comment, if you care to share it in a private message or otherwise. Happy 4th of July, Sean.

      Reply
  3. Pete - July 4, 2018 11:00 am

    About your Chick-Fil-A comment, were you not proud of that because it was Chick-Fil-A, or because of your performance?

    Reply
  4. Mike - July 4, 2018 11:11 am

    What Gary said.

    Reply
  5. William Burr - July 4, 2018 11:17 am

    Not proud of playing for Chick-Fil-A? Seriously Sean? Hopefully you meant that your performance was subpar, and not up to the standards you have set for yourself. Any other reading of the statement is dangerously close to sacrilege.

    Reply
  6. Jo Ann - July 4, 2018 12:38 pm

    Happy 4th of July, Sean, Jamie, Thelma Lou, & all your friends & family

    Reply
  7. Mark C - July 4, 2018 12:51 pm

    Dear Disappointed, I think you may be missing his point about playing at a Chick-fil-A.

    Young Me was a knucklehead too. Middle-Aged Me has flashes of Young Me scattered in the most interesting of places. I’m hoping that Old Man Me gets it all sorted out before Young Me kills him!

    Reply
  8. Shirley Brown - July 4, 2018 12:56 pm

    Happy 4th of July to you and yours!

    Reply
  9. Lee Taylor - July 4, 2018 12:56 pm

    What Donna said too!

    Reply
  10. Rickey Creel - July 4, 2018 1:00 pm

    I’m with what Donna and Lee said about CFA. Dissapointed…

    Reply
  11. Terri Rosene - July 4, 2018 1:03 pm

    Why on earth wouldn’t you be proud of being a part of a Chik-fil-a opening? That disappoints me.

    Reply
  12. Jeanne Butler - July 4, 2018 1:12 pm

    Happy July 4. I have only a few friends left and don’t see them that often. It’s sad. And playing at a Chik-Fil-A opening. Wonderful. They are the best. Love you Sean. Gotta go round up my demon Chocolate Lab❤️❤️

    Reply
  13. Ellen Walters - July 4, 2018 1:14 pm

    Thank you my friend!!!!

    Reply
  14. Linda - July 4, 2018 1:31 pm

    Happy Fourth Sean from Rehoboth Beach on our country ‘s Birthday!
    Loved your column today – the friends part especially and wanted to say that you never know how your column reaches out and sends messages
    I know most people know not to light a barbecue with gasoline…but when I was young – in our neighborhood – there was a chemical engineer who’s grill was not getting hot enough quick enough and he sprayed lighter fluid right on top of it even though there were flames coming up.
    The flames went into the can and it exploded killing him and injuring his two year old severely … he left a widow and 8 children…
    You would have thought he would have known better but ….
    I hope your column will be seen nationwide…..

    Reply
  15. Sally T. - July 4, 2018 1:38 pm

    I think every single one of you that is “disappointed” needs to quit reading so much into Sean’s comment. He’s a professional musician and I would imagine that his reference was because he was playing at the grand opening of a FAST FOOD restaurant–perhaps not the most glamorous gig . If you have read Sean much, you may know that he and Ellie Mae used to eat at Chick-fil-A every morning and his mother worked there, too, if I recall. Look at his old posts about Ellie Mae and you will read about them eating breakfast there. Furthermore, if you have noticed, he NEVER makes political statements in his writings, why would he start today?

    Reply
  16. Barbara Assell - July 4, 2018 2:05 pm

    Wow! I wondered if anyone else caught the chick fil a comment. I guess it hit a lot of you and me, too. I’m hoping we are reading something into it that isn’t there. Sean’sposts are my favorite read of the day. I hope that it was an innocent reference to how the band performed that day. Still love you, Sean.

    Reply
  17. Edna B. - July 4, 2018 2:19 pm

    I loved your story today. Sad so many folks picked up a negative note (to them) and not to the whole point of your story. Friends and family are everything. I’m old now and most of my lifeloing friends have already gone to our maker. But I have made lots of new friends through the internet and my blog. Mostly through my blog friends. I was blessed the day I found your blog. Today started off a bit rough for me, but after reading your post, I feel much better. Thank you Sean, and you have a wonderful Fourth Of July. Hugs, Edna B.

    Reply
    • Sue Ann Holmes - July 4, 2018 6:11 pm

      Loved your post today. Don’t let the comments about chick fil a bother you. I agree with you that life is all about family and the few real friends we have in life. Wishing you and your two gals a great 4th! You are blessed beyond measure, and your posts bless me!

      Reply
  18. Music Man - July 4, 2018 2:22 pm

    I am a musician who plays with Sean. He’s one of my good friends, and we eat at Chik-FIL-A all the time! He loves that place. Which makes this so sad that people don’t know him half as well as thy think they do. I’m so surprised at folks who are so quick to make the worst out of something he said, especially when Sean is such a nice guy.

    Some people might not know that Sean had dreams of becoming a concert jazz pianist when he was young and he is such a really good musician, he could’ve done that. But he kept hitting roadblocks at it and I’ll never forget playing at in a shoestore with him once. We were playing music on the clearance aisle, and Sean was like, “Wow, we’ve hit rock bottom, playing at a shoestore.” I’m disappointed in the people who are disappointed in him. I just might call him up and see if he wants to meet me at Chik-FIL-A. Peace.

    Reply
    • Linda Chapman - July 4, 2018 3:51 pm

      I was shocked and disappointed at those comments, too! What is wrong with people? Let it go, Folks!

      Reply
    • Seanmakesmyday - July 4, 2018 4:09 pm

      What Music Man said. I totally understood what Sean was saying!! I just don’t get some people who constantly have a need to pick things apart. Or maybe the point just “went over their head” !

      Reply
    • Jody - July 4, 2018 6:07 pm

      Thanks for sharing your friendship with Sean. The heartfelt messages he writes and the positivity in his stories are uplifting. Blessings

      Reply
    • G. Mitchell - August 31, 2018 3:26 pm

      Sean is fortunate to have a friend who has his back. Shame on the readers who make judgements about a story of friendship. There are sadly, people in this world who choose to see negative in every situation or comment made. These are NOT your friends. In everything I’ve ever read by this man, he’s speaks lovingly of his parents, wife, strangers, pups, friends, music, towns and the beauty of every day. The people with negative responses must wake up every morning looking for something to complain about. Pray for them Sean and Music Man, then ignore them or delete them. Don’t let it fester and become part of your world, feelings or heart. You are better than that. Hope your 4th was filled with great food, sloppy puppy kisses and tons of fireworks. Lots of love from Tennessee

      Reply
    • Onnie - September 2, 2018 6:31 pm

      I understood his meaning immediately.

      Reply
  19. Panzey - July 4, 2018 3:32 pm

    Thank you MusicMan!

    Reply
  20. Patricia Gibson - July 4, 2018 3:43 pm

    Happy Fourth!!

    Reply
  21. Jon Dragonfly - July 4, 2018 3:44 pm

    My Friend,
    I’d happily eat a gasoline-burger with you any day of the year.
    J

    Reply
  22. Susie - July 4, 2018 3:57 pm

    What Sally T. said. People are so quick to jump on that one tiny mention of Chick-Fil-A that they miss the entire rest of the story. Love and look forward to your posts every day.

    Reply
  23. Shelton Armour - July 4, 2018 4:39 pm

    God bless your true friends…a few really is all you get.

    Reply
  24. Bobbie - July 4, 2018 5:01 pm

    I think you have wayyyy more friends than you know. Happy 4th, Sean!

    Reply
  25. Janice Takashima - July 4, 2018 5:55 pm

    This makes me miss my dad. His accelerant of choice was oxy-acetylene. Good for lighting the BBQ and for making balloon bombs. He was a big kid. Us little kids were allowed to only watch from a safe distance.
    Thanks for the memories, Sean.

    Reply
  26. Wandajb - July 4, 2018 6:11 pm

    I’ve had much stuff and I’ve had little. I’ve traveled the world. All that really matters and all that we need are God and people. Thank you for this post which is spot on.

    Reply
  27. Jack Quanstrum - July 5, 2018 12:08 am

    Nice lighthearted story for the fourth. Thank you!

    Reply
  28. Sandra - July 5, 2018 1:55 am

    thanks, friend. Oh, I’ll just eat potato salad,thanks. 😁

    Reply
  29. joyce luker - July 5, 2018 2:25 am

    Good friends,keep them! Happy 4th!!!:)

    Reply
  30. Jack Darnell - July 5, 2018 2:35 am

    HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY I enjoyed the visit. I love this country!

    Reply
  31. William Burr - July 5, 2018 2:43 am

    For everyone who is shocked that lots of us are disturbed about the negative Chick-Fil-A reference, let me edumacate you. We are seriously tired of the media chipping away at our core values, and find Sean of the South a welcome refuge. I/ We enjoy Sean because he DOESN’T regurgitate the crap heard on the rest of the media sources. If Sean starts channeling his inner Jack Dorsey, I will find it difficult to follow him. The dagger to the heart coming from Sean was completely unexpected, and disturbing because it came from Sean. I hope we are misreading his intention with the CFA reference, and no we aren’t making a big deal out of nothing.

    Reply
    • Kevin - July 6, 2018 12:18 pm

      Wow, bless your heart.

      Reply
  32. Carolyn Kent - July 5, 2018 10:46 am

    Also wondering about the CFA comment. I know you & Ellie Mae went there for breakfast all the time!!

    Reply
  33. Andrea - July 5, 2018 12:23 pm

    Lord have mercy. Some of y’all have got to get a grip. Sean eats at Chick-fil-a more that you do! Snowflakes: Each and every one of y’all that are having a come apart over it.

    Reply
  34. Anthony - July 12, 2018 4:28 pm

    I took the CFA comment totally differently. All the other events were local, grassroots events whereas, CFA, as fine a corporation as it may be, and the fast-food of choice for many of us, is still a big corporation that looks the same everywhere. Of course they employ local people and reinvest in their communities, but it’s still a big corporation that can undercut local mom and pop businesses. Now whether or not Sean intended me to read all that into it, I have no idea, but that’s what I got out of it. Reminds me of trying to interpret the Bible… We all see something different and then start arguing about it!

    Oh, and thank God for friends.

    Reply
  35. Leah - August 31, 2018 1:16 pm

    Of all the wonderful sentiments in this post, you choose Chick-fil-a as the buzzword? Chick-fi-la at lunch on a Wednesday is my least favorite place on earth. I can only imagine how ridiculous a grand opening is. Not because I am anti Chick-fil-a or anti all things Jesus (I’m not), but I am anti rude people and crowds and car lines wrapped twice around a building! That’s what I gathered from the comment (that I didn’t think twice about until reading these judgey, assenine comments). Y’all Jesus loving folks just keep on judging….oh…and God bless (since saying that makes it aaaall better). Bless their hearts!

    Reply
  36. Marlene Willis - August 31, 2018 2:48 pm

    Hello, Sean, from another thick-headed fool. I like your literary allusions. Hey, I know you like Chick-fil-a. It’s just that barbeque is better.

    Reply
  37. Ann Syfert - August 31, 2018 9:22 pm

    Music Man, I have no doubt about anything that you said. I’m not personally acquainted with Sean but I’ve read enough of his writings to know that to insult Chick-fil-a and all it’s customers was the farthest thing from his mind. He is a good man and just wouldn’t do that. I know how much these negative comments must have hurt Sean because I read his response to them within the next couple of days after this posted the first time. I can’t believe that anyone who has read his posts would actually think badly about him and I’m so, so sorry!!!. There is not a day that goes by that he doesn’t make me smile so big that it hurts and cry at the same time. I love the man!!! I get his blog in my e-mail and also on Facebook. My day wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t get my “Sean” fix. Sean, Please keep on keeping on!!! There are a lot more people that feel the way I do than those that don’t

    Reply

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