Good Folks

There’s a couple in the corner. They’re elderly. He’s eating, she’s beside him—not eating. Halfway through the meal, he sets his fork down and places his arm around her. She leans into him. She’s crying. I can see she’s wearing an oxygen facemask and a hospital bracelet. There’s a story here, I just don’t know what it is.

Cracker Barrel is quiet this time of night. There are few cars in the parking lot. My wife is with me. We’ve been traveling all day.

On the way into the restaurant, I see a few kids sitting on rockers outside. They’re playing checkers.

“HEY!” shouts a little girl. “YOU CAN’T JUMP BACKWARDS!”

“YUH HUH!” shouts a little boy.

“NO YOU CAN’T!”

I don’t like to butt in, but this situation calls for some well-tempered adult advice. And since there aren’t any well-tempered adults around, my advice will have to do.

“She’s right,” I tell the boy. “You can’t jump backwards unless you’ve been kinged.”

“I can’t?” he says.

“Nope. Besides, even if you COULD, it wouldn’t matter, because your girlfriend says you can’t, and girls are ALWAYS right.”

“GROSS!” he shouts. “SHE’S NOT MY GIRLFRIEND, SHE’S MY SISTER!”

His sister laughs until the vein in her forehead shows.

We get a table. Our waitress has long hair and tired eyes. We still have miles to drive, I order coffee. Black.

The waitress tells me about her son. He’s about to start first grade when summer is over. She hasn’t seen much of him this summer. This isn’t her only job. She has two more.

She shows me photos of her son. He’s skinny. Thick eyeglasses. Freckles.

“He’s doing Vacation Bible School this summer,” she says. “He loves it.”

As it happens, I have passed many years in Vacation Bible School—both as an inmate, and as a warden. I consider the hours spent judging heated three-legged races to be golden.

I order my usual. Three eggs, bacon, biscuits.

There’s a couple in the corner. They’re elderly. He’s eating, she’s beside him—not eating. Halfway through the meal, he sets his fork down and places his arm around her.

She leans into him. She’s crying. I can see she’s wearing an oxygen facemask and a hospital bracelet. There’s a story here, I just don’t know what it is.

There’s another story at the table beside me. A group of men in neon-colored shirts, with muddy jeans. Five or six of them. They’re quiet.

One red headed man says, “My wife just said my daughter learned how to tie her shoes.”

A few smiles from the table.

“I can’t wait until we can all go back home,” he adds.

I don’t know these fellas, but I know them. I’ve worked alongside them. Out-of-town work is good money, but lonely.

My waitress brings food. She hasn’t let my coffee level sink below the rim all night. She’s a ray of sunlight is what she is.

The redhead asks his pal: “How old was YOUR kid when he learned to tie HIS shoes?”

His friend shrugs. “Dunno. I wasn’t there.”

Our meal is finished. I buy a few things in the gift shop for my niece. The elderly couple appears behind me while I pay at the counter.

He’s toting her oxygen tank on a dolly and carrying a large bag.

“How’re y’all tonight?” I ask, since I’m a chatty son of a biscuit. I get this quality from my mother.

“We’re exhausted,” he says.

I wish I knew more.

I pay. I leave a tip on the table, I take a final sip of Joe and tell my waitress she has a beautiful son.

“Thanks,” she says. “God bless.”

Yes ma’am. You, too.

We exit the restaurant. Out front, the same two kids are still playing checkers.

“Bye,” says the girl.

“See ya,” says the boy.

“Remember,” I tell the boy. “Be nice to your girlfriend.”

“GROSS!” he says.

Big laughter.

I wish I could make this world a better place. I wish I could make sick people better, and give hardworking parents a chance to see their kids grow up. I wish I could hug every child who needs to be hugged.

But I can’t. I suppose all I can do is see people. Maybe even write a few words on their behalf.

Words like: “I’m so proud of you it hurts.” And: “Your kids absolutely know that you love them.” And: “You’re a unique and exceptional human being, just like everyone else.”

And:

No matter what any poor, misguided soul in this life tells you, you simply cannot jump backwards in checkers.

28 comments

  1. Jay McDonald - July 14, 2018 5:58 am

    Wonderful story! Thanks. Jay

    Reply
  2. Pamela McEachern - July 14, 2018 6:57 am

    Well I say you give us all a hug everyday with your words! And checkers, well that is just one of the lessons of life you have to learn early.

    Peace and Love from Birmingham

    Reply
    • Maxine - July 14, 2018 2:15 pm

      Amen, Pam. You just hit the nail square on it’s head. Life, isn’t it amazing with special people..

      Reply
      • Pamela McEachern - July 14, 2018 7:05 pm

        It is very special to meet new people. 🦋

        Reply
  3. Gary D - July 14, 2018 8:50 am

    I remember playing checkers with my dad when I was a kid. Sometimes he would let me win. And then make a big deal about how good I was. I knew better. Great times way back then.

    Reply
  4. Cynthia Harmon - July 14, 2018 9:14 am

    Seeing people is a big deal. Keep doing it. And talking. I strike up conversations in lines. Makes the time pass so much better.

    Reply
  5. Grace - July 14, 2018 10:49 am

    Thanks for this. ❤️

    Reply
  6. Joan Raines - July 14, 2018 11:16 am

    Sad but beautiful.

    Reply
  7. Marilyn - July 14, 2018 11:59 am

    You have given me another bright spot in my morning. I love your positive writing and also admire your artwork. Thank you for giving us something to start our day on a positive note, which helps us see the good around us.

    Reply
  8. LeAnne Martin - July 14, 2018 12:10 pm

    Sean, my dad was chatty with strangers, too. I learned that from him. When I was young, it embarrassed me. “Why does he have to talk to everybody all the time?” I would think, sometimes with an accompanying eyeroll. But when I grew up, I saw the value in it, not only because of Dad but because I understood that human beings are created in God’s image. Now it’s a reflex to look people in the eye and to try to lighten their load a little with conversation and maybe a laugh or two. It’s a valuable skill and time well spent. Thanks for reminding me of that.

    Reply
    • Susie - July 14, 2018 7:16 pm

      My daughtet used to say, “Mom, people don’t want to talk to you.” Well they sure acted like they wanted to talk, is what my answer was.
      Keep on doing what you’re doing.
      People do want to be recognized.

      Reply
  9. Joy - July 14, 2018 12:21 pm

    I love to read your writings….everyone we meet has a story…a sorrow…a hurt or something good going on in their life. You make us realize that we are all human and that we really do need each other. Keep up the good work!

    Reply
  10. Susan Kennedy - July 14, 2018 12:25 pm

    Oh my heart….

    Reply
  11. janiesjottings - July 14, 2018 12:38 pm

    Oh my dear Sean, you absolutely do make the world a better place! Believe that with all you are. I so look forward to reading your uplifting words every day. Thank you for sharing your gift with all of us. It is a blessing!

    Reply
  12. Carol - July 14, 2018 1:08 pm

    You listen Sean , What a blessing you are!!
    God Love ya!
    Love ya!

    Reply
  13. Peggy Savage - July 14, 2018 1:38 pm

    You have such a gift for seeing beyond the obvious. Such a blessing.

    Reply
  14. Jack Darnell - July 14, 2018 1:41 pm

    I like it. THANKS

    Reply
  15. Bo Brown - July 14, 2018 2:02 pm

    One of your wishes has been fulfilled. You do make this world a better place. Keep- on “keeping on”

    Reply
  16. Jon Dragonfly - July 14, 2018 2:07 pm

    The chattiest person I ever met was a botany professor at Auburn. He was a delight to talk to at school or at a store. The most fun was watching his two teenage sons come and gently pry him away from a conversation in Walmart as his patient wife waited in the background. Those boys knew his ways and loved him enough to not embarrass him nor me.

    Reply
  17. Maxine - July 14, 2018 2:22 pm

    Sean you are so special, keep ‘seeing and caring’ in your special way of changing our focus to the heart of all of us.

    Reply
  18. Marilyn Mason - July 14, 2018 2:39 pm

    👍😊

    Reply
  19. Edna B. - July 14, 2018 3:37 pm

    I love it! I wish I could heal other folks’ sickness, sadness or loneliness, but I can’t. But I do try to be nice to folks, and to help others whenever I can. In the end, I hope my little contribution makes a difference for someone. You have a wonderful day, hugs, Edna B.

    Reply
  20. Floyd Williams - July 14, 2018 5:09 pm

    You have such a gift Sean. Your sensitivity and love for your fellow man make you a must read for my wife and I each morning right after we read God’s word. That puts you in pretty strong company. Give Thelma Lou an ear rub for me.

    Shalom,
    Floyd and Sandy Williams
    Gulf Shores

    Reply
  21. Janet Mary Lee - July 14, 2018 6:47 pm

    Unless you’re Kinged!! (smile!) You lighten so many loads. Good story and thank you!

    Reply
  22. Sue Riddle Cronkite - July 14, 2018 11:10 pm

    The world’s people are wondrous to behold.

    Reply
  23. Charlene Fugler - July 15, 2018 5:46 pm

    Thanks for all the inspiration.

    Reply
  24. Kathy Daum - July 15, 2018 5:47 pm

    We encourage and help when we can. Thanks for reminding us.

    Reply
  25. Terri Boykin - July 16, 2018 11:48 am

    Sean, you have encouraged me to speak out more to random people I see everyday, not just think the words in my head. Love you much, you kind, red headed man. Terri

    Reply

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