My People

You are my people. Sort of. I mean we’re not that different. The affluent and the blue collars all eat grits the same way. The red yellow, black, and white. The window washer, the Mississippian Episcopal priest.

I was on TV. It happened a few weeks ago. This was pure history for the Dietrichs. To my knowledge, I have never been on TV before. Break out the Natural Light.

The last time a Dietrich made television was when my cousin, Billy Joe Ed, got arrested for setting off M-80’s in the restrooms at the Methodist Church. They interviewed my father on television as an eye-witness.

He froze. His face developed exactly two zits.

“Hey, Mama,” he said to America.

No, this was different. It happened in Monroeville, Alabama. I was interviewed by Don Noble on Alabama Public Television. We were surrounded by the same kind of TV backdrop they use on Sixty Minutes.

You know the kind of décor I mean. A dim-lit, mostly wooden room. Leatherbound books on side tables, Robert Goulet records playing in the background. A suede wingback chair with a beer holder in the armrest.

I was nervous, watching men in headphones run in circles. They positioned me on my mark and told me to “Speak up!” and “Quit mumbling!” and “Don’t LOOK straight at the camera, kid!”

Then, they aimed a NASA spacecraft lens at me until I developed two zits.

The makeup lady applied powder to my forehead.

“Don’t be embarrassed,” she said. “Pimples are just a natural part of life.”

So, Don asked a few questions, and I tried my best to sound smart—which is always a mistake. The only way I know how to sound smart is to make quotation-mark gestures with my fingers when I speak.

Don asked questions in rapid fire. I almost choked.

He asked about my favorite TV show—Andy Griffith.

He asked where I look for spiritual guidance—Richard Petty.

He asked what my favorite literary topic was—I blanked. “Hey, Mama” I pointed out.

Then, he asked a question I wasn’t ready for. It happened so fast it almost flew past me.

“Who are your people?” he asked.

Well, I’ll be dog. Nobody has ever asked me that. And this idea deserves a little thought.

So right now, I’m thinking about it while I write you from a hotel room. And as it happens, I don’t have to go far to find my people.

Right now, for instance, there are two maids outside my room. They’re pushing vacuums. One maid sings while she works. I’ve been a blue collar worker all my adult life. These are my people.

I also have folks at the Huddle House. A few nights ago a cook named Paul cracked a million eggs, flipped fifteen thousand burgers for a late night rush. He’s my people.

Jordan—high-school senior whose mother passed from pancreatic cancer this month. Mine.

Derrick—moved to Nashville to be a singer, but is a janitor with four kids. Mine.

Chet—truck driver who hasn’t seen his little girl since his last layover in Atlanta. Mine.

Ironworkers, pipefitters, trim carpenters, roofers, and anyone who can fog up a mirror.

Mine, mine, mine.

Mothers who are alone. Fathers who are broke. Students who won’t graduate. Jacob, who drives a commercial lawn mower. Charlie, who plays the accordion. And Billy Joe Ed, who believes wholeheartedly in the awe inspiring power of the M-80.

And here’s the part you knew was coming:

You are my people. Sort of. I mean we’re not that different. The affluent and the blue collars all eat grits the same way. The red yellow, black, and white. The window washer, the Mississippian Episcopal priest.

And the teenager named Mary, who endures a five-hour spinal surgery while I type this.

You deserve someone better than me to be your people. But then, you deserve a lot of things. You deserve a ten-foot-tall trophy for getting out of bed this morning. You deserve to be seen.

I wish I could make that happen, but I can’t. I’m just one fella. All I can do is develop pimples on live television. I can’t make good things happen, or undo the bad things. And I don’t have any ten-foot-tall trophies lying around.

I suppose all I can do is claim you, just like the folks who claimed me. And if we belong to each other then, by God, we belong.

Anyway.

Hey, Mama.

40 comments

  1. Linda acres - July 13, 2018 7:53 am

    Mine too! Bless you.

    Reply
  2. Judy - July 13, 2018 8:33 am

    Thank God for you and all the “my people” of the world from one of your people.

    Reply
  3. biblebeltbikerbabe - July 13, 2018 10:10 am

    Good stuff!

    Reply
  4. Karen Erwin-Brown - July 13, 2018 10:21 am

    Let us know when that airs. Always good when I get to see “my people “. Hope that didn’t sound too smart.

    Reply
  5. CaroG87 - July 13, 2018 10:25 am

    Beautiful!!

    Reply
  6. Katherine - July 13, 2018 10:29 am

    Yes indeed. We are all family.

    Reply
  7. Snoopy - July 13, 2018 10:55 am

    Love your creative drawing, reminds me of the hidden pictures in Highlights!!! You are amazing!! Yes, please let us know when it is going to air!! May God continue to richly bless you!!

    Reply
  8. janiesjottings - July 13, 2018 11:19 am

    Love being one of your people. I once cleaned motel rooms and all the people who do that are my people too. Thank’s Sean!

    Reply
  9. Nina Thompson - July 13, 2018 11:34 am

    I’m proud to be one of your people!

    Reply
  10. Nancy - July 13, 2018 11:37 am

    I’m so blessed to be one of your people! Every day you are part of my people – thank you for giving yourself to us!

    Reply
  11. Elvera Owens - July 13, 2018 11:41 am

    My sweet and long-time friend Lizzy Lou sent me one of your posts and said she thought I’d enjoy and identify. I DO! You brighten my day. It’s good to know our people!

    Reply
  12. Rhonda Howell - July 13, 2018 11:47 am

    Just one is fella is sometimes just enough. I am ashamed to admit I just “discovered” your writing fairly recent. It was a dry soul finally getting a little rain. How is it you meet someone for the first time and just like Santa Claus they know it all. The naughty and the nice and what you need. There are lots of good writers. And lots of southern writers that speak my language. Writing is a skill. But touching deep places in someone’s heart is a gift and a calling. I am glad you answered the telephone.

    Reply
  13. Becky Hanks - July 13, 2018 12:15 pm

    Ah! Bill Noble – one of my favorite public TV shows, that is when I catch it. Put me down as a fan who wants to visit with you on TV, so let us know when. Wanna see how you did, zits and all.

    Reply
  14. Mary C - July 13, 2018 1:21 pm

    My family does over twenty years ago. I’ve been alone in the world ever since. Thanks for claiming me!

    Reply
    • Mary C - July 13, 2018 1:22 pm

      Correction: my family died over twenty years ago.

      Reply
    • Pat - July 13, 2018 2:48 pm

      Mary this is such a sweet comment…reading it caused some kind of reaction in my eyes that caused them to overflow with a salty liquid running down my cheeks!

      Reply
  15. Lynda Gayle Knight - July 13, 2018 1:41 pm

    Sooo glad I am one of your people ❣️ Love your inclusive attitude. So many Americans need more than anything to belong❣️

    Reply
  16. Jeanne Butler - July 13, 2018 2:09 pm

    Sean you wonderful man. You are my people. I pray I get to meet you before I die. Love

    Reply
  17. Jack Quanstrum - July 13, 2018 2:40 pm

    Great story. It sings true!

    Reply
  18. Tony Drake - July 13, 2018 2:54 pm

    Thought provoking

    Reply
  19. Richard C. - July 13, 2018 3:14 pm

    Please send out a link to your TV interview. That will be a life-changing opportunity right there.

    Reply
  20. LARRY WALL - July 13, 2018 3:27 pm

    You bet your guitar, you are our people. And you can really be sure we are all your people, along with your Ms. Jamie, Thelma Lou, the Episcopal minister, the folks at Chic-Fil-A, and those down at Walmart and Piggly Wiggly. Even Don Noble and Billy Joe Ed. We are all together and for each other. Well, maybe not Peter Strzok. 🙂

    Reply
  21. Pamela McEachern - July 13, 2018 4:18 pm

    I love your art, it’s great every day, I would love a T shirt with it on the back and that logo on the front! Thank you for including all of us as your people. It certainly feels good to be included with these special folks. God Bless you and this community you have brought together.

    Peace and Love from Birmingham

    Reply
  22. Southerner (no fake’n) - July 13, 2018 4:24 pm

    Sean, I have answers for you on how to sound or look smart. But…. you may end up looking like a jack a$$ so be careful.
    People from Tennessee- they use a really long I in their words like white kite fright night or might. Makes it sound more like “iye” when they talk. To themselves… proper English. To me and you they sound like someone trying to be a Yankee.
    People from Alabama- except me- they really try pronouncing their ing’s correctly when faking smart. Something about 4th grade grammar makes a Yellow Hammer say sleeping, creeping, peeping, winning, losing with a most definite ing on the end. Sounds creepy to me….. but whatever. We all each’n others peeps.

    Reply
  23. Edna B. - July 13, 2018 5:04 pm

    I am so happy to be part of your awesome group of folks. And I, too, love your art. Sean, you have a great day, hugs, Edna B.

    Reply
  24. Shelton Armour - July 13, 2018 5:13 pm

    I’m new but proud to claim you and all of God’s children as family.

    Reply
  25. Janet Mary Lee - July 13, 2018 6:13 pm

    Love being part of your people! Thank you for claiming me! The feeling is mutual!!
    P.S. Like the t-shirt idea from Pamela from Birmingham!

    Reply
  26. Kathy - July 13, 2018 7:09 pm

    We do all eat grits the same. There aren’t better people than you.

    Reply
  27. Toni M Martin - July 13, 2018 9:30 pm

    Your people: Toni from Western Kentucky trying to make it in Indiana. She isn’t all alone but sometimes feels all alone because its all up to her. And you help her, you really do.

    Reply
  28. Karen Davis - July 13, 2018 11:36 pm

    I agree with a previous commenter. Would love to order T-shirts with your drawings and words of wisdom on them. Spread your simple but wise ideology to the masses….

    Reply
  29. jones - July 14, 2018 12:44 am

    An honor! Your readers claim you too!! Once again, the best thing I’ve read today.

    Reply
  30. Carolynn Bettis - July 14, 2018 3:40 am

    Moving and inspiring – Thanks!

    Reply
  31. Beth Reed - July 14, 2018 6:49 am

    Yes I am proud to know that you are one of my people! In this huge Universe we are all connected in some way. Sometimes it’s just knowing that someone has been where we are at some point in our lives or running into a person who we just click with and some we never see again or run into a person that we never thought to see again. Then there are those we know just because we all eat our grits the same way.
    No one has ever asked me who my people we’re except for my ex mother in law and I knew by the look on her face that she wasn’t impressed. No matter because her people didn’t impress me either much but even back then I knew that we were connected.
    It’s good to have people. Have a great day. Beth Reed

    Reply
  32. anne trawick - July 14, 2018 3:53 pm

    By “eating their grits the same way,” I’m assuming that you understand that everyone, no matter his economic status, experiences heartbreak, has horrible surgeries, has chronic health issues, drug problems, children problems, deafness, blindness, amputated limbs, or hardening of the heart. It is your stance that people rise above their despair that makes you so readable. Your people, the ones who love you back, are everywhere. Love to you and Jamie,
    Anne Trawick

    Reply
  33. Ms. Palmer - July 14, 2018 7:50 pm

    Long time reader, first time commenter. I love your inclusiveness, and I love this post. The affluent, the working class, the red, yellow, black, white, the window washer, the Mississippian Episcopal priest… and the homeless, the mega-rich, the surfers, the artists, the tech gurus, the backhoe drivers, the urban minimum wage slaves, the LGBT community, the baristas, the rabbis, the migrant farm workers, the environmentalists, the homeschoolers, the scientific researchers, the firefighters, the marching students, the dishwashers, and the backyard beekeepers. We are all people trying to get by and make something positive for ourselves, our families and our world. It’s easy to forget the inherent good in people when life is stressful and bad news feels abundant. Making connections between people, especially with those who are different from ourselves, is so very important to learn and grow. We are all in this together. I appreciate your positive spirit. Thank you, Sean.

    Reply
  34. Dru - July 15, 2018 7:02 am

    I look forward to seeing you and Don together. He asked a great question, and you wrote a great answer.

    Reply
  35. Terri Boykin - July 16, 2018 11:56 am

    Sean, I am honored to be considered one of your people. You, my friend, have been one of mine since the very first time I read the first story a friend of mine shared. Love you much! Terri

    Reply
  36. Jody - July 19, 2018 7:14 pm

    and all God’s people said amen. Thanks!

    Reply
  37. D. Frances Hoomes Wichman, born in Brewton, AL (Hoomesville, Damascus ) Tell Jamie I said "Hey, there" - August 7, 2018 10:28 pm

    Hey, Son……I’m proud to be your people. God told us to love one another and to be kind and helpful. You show your love in your writing and it makes the readers feel better and happier. Thank you. I love you too.

    Reply
  38. Carolyn Kelley - September 7, 2018 12:15 pm

    Love my people❤️😊

    Reply

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