“Can still remember the first time someone died in my arms,” he tells me. “I remember the smells, my surroundings, the way I felt… It never leaves you.”

God put me together funny. My arms are too long. My legs come to my neck. My feet are the size of waterskis. This makes it hard to shop for things like, say, clothes.

I’m getting a sport jacket for a wedding. The man taking my measurements is named Moe. I know this because it’s on his nametag. He is sturdy-built, caramel skin, middle-aged.

He tells me to hold my arms outward while he pays close attention to how uniquely disproportionate I am.

I’ve met Moe once before. He remembers me.

He recalls that I am an Alabama football fan. He remembers that the last time I visited this store, I was buying clothes for a funeral in South Georgia. He remembers that I always have dog hair on me.

“I got a good memory,” he says. “I was a fire-medic. We had to remember everything ‘cause we couldn’t take notes.”

A fireman-paramedic. A soul who is as equally at home in a yellow NOMEX suit as he is EMT work blues. A man who has removed nine-year-olds from burning mobile homes. Who has resuscitated ninety-year-olds.

A cotton-picking hero.

“I worked in Greene County, Georgia,” he says. “I’d still be doing it if my family hadn’t needed me here. I miss it.”

Georgia credentials don’t count within Florida state lines. The state won’t let him work without a brand new certificate—which requires more schooling. Florida wants its pound of cash.

“Costs ten grand to get certified,” he said. “I can’t afford to start school all over again. Gotta earn a living.”

So he’s fitting people for suits. The same hands that once saved a drowning girl, or a boy with a gut-shot, are now patting my shoulders to make sure I have enough room.

“Can still remember the first time someone died in my arms,” he tells me. “I remember the smells, my surroundings, the way I felt… It never leaves you.”

It was December. A kid rode a motorcycle through traffic. He sped between two delivery vans. He lost control. The boy bounced between the vehicles and got crushed by interstate traffic.

“I held him,” he said. “I was like, ‘Oh man, this is someone my age. This guy could be ME, you know?”

He says the victim took his last breath while he cradled him. And even though Moe has seen a lot of death, it’s taken years to get over that kid.

“But that’s when the lightbulb went off,” he goes on. “Just knew I’s meant to help people. Every day.

“My life just don’t feel right until I’ve done good. No matter where I am, I keep my eye out for one person who needs something. Anything. Even if just to say, ‘Hey man, I’m here for you.’”

I know we’re strangers, Moe.

But today that person was me.

11 comments

  1. Sam Hunneman - March 12, 2017 2:37 pm

    Dear Sean,
    Perspective.
    Logic.
    Good, kind heart.
    Ever think about being a hero and running for office. God knows, we could use some o’that in high places.
    Your fan,
    Sam

    Reply
  2. Eddie Lanham - March 12, 2017 2:59 pm

    Grant Co. GA…being from GA., I know that place.
    Did you use that location to see if we were paying attention?

    Love your work.

    Reply
  3. Cece DuBois - March 12, 2017 3:06 pm

    Thank you for what you say. And how you say it. Get enough of these written (and you may have them already), and there’s your book. I’d buy it.

    Thanks again –
    Cece

    Reply
  4. Nedra Tucker - March 12, 2017 4:00 pm

    Living in Bay County, Florida with kinfolk spread in ALL the places you write about makes me feel near to them even if it is just words that draw me close. You write beautifully! You illicit the smell of salt air, the pastures, dirt turned up for planting peanuts, cotton and soybeans. Best of all, I can feel the Southern Love! Please scratch your dog behind the ears for me and give him some sugar!

    Reply
  5. Judy - March 12, 2017 4:11 pm

    I am just starting to read your column, Sean. Wow, what an impressive amount of well thought out few words to evoke such emotion! I’m a huge fan! I’m from Mississippi and now live in Maine. I would take nothing for this bold move that our entire family continues to embrace daily. I really enjoy your words, thank you

    Reply
  6. Ione Lowrey - March 12, 2017 5:44 pm

    Yes, Moe and Sean…..today that person was me. THANKS MUCH !!

    Reply
  7. Janet - March 12, 2017 8:58 pm

    I, for one, need stories like this now more than ever, at a time when it seems our country’s values are being ripped to shreds by our so-called leaders. So thank you, Sean of the South, for all of these fascinating posts of courage, resilience, and human kindness. I hope you keep up this wondetful work. The stories send a clear message: there’s hope for us after all.

    Reply
  8. Cheryl - March 13, 2017 12:06 am

    Mr. Dietrich, you have a gift for seeing people through God’s eyes. Thank you for sharing your writings.

    Reply
  9. Michael Bishop - March 14, 2017 1:13 pm

    I agree. There’s hope for us all if we stay focused on the folks who provide rather than just promise it.

    Reply
  10. Simon - March 17, 2017 11:54 pm

    Excellent web site you have here.. It’s difficult
    to find high-quality writing like yours nowadays. I seriously appreciate people like you!
    Take care!!

    Reply

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