As a newlywed, I tried opening a landscaping business. I sunk my savings into commercial mowing equipment. Business was bad. On weekends I’d print hundreds of flyers and shove them in mailboxes.

It’s New Year’s Eve and I’m writing you from a cold front porch in Eclectic, Alabama. Over the last years, I’ve written from some interesting places. Barbecue stands, hotel lobbies, airplanes, hurricane shelters, Episcopal beer festivals.

Funny. If you would’ve told me five years ago I’d be writing at all, I would’ve called you clinically insane. This is because most of my life’s dreams have died slow, agonizing deaths.

As a boy, I wanted to be a pianist—I don’t talk about that very often because it seems silly now. I’ve played piano since age nine. Once, I competed in a piano competition. I wore a suit and played before a large theater.

My hands were trembling. The other contestants backstage were kids from big cities who spoke with New-York accents.

One kid shook my hand and said, “I’m gonna blow you out of the water, sucker.”

“Pleased to meet you,” said I.

“Aw, your mother sniffs your underpants, loser.”

I came in last place.

As a newlywed, I tried opening a landscaping business. I sunk my savings into commercial mowing equipment. Business was bad. On weekends I’d print hundreds of flyers and shove them in mailboxes.

“FIFTY PERCENT OFF!” the flyers read. “CALL NOW!”

Pretty please. With sprinkles on top. My business folded.

I did handyman work. I laid floors, hung drywall, renovated bathrooms. I tried to do this on my own, doing odd jobs. Disaster.

I played music in rundown bars. Not fancy tourist joints. I played ugly rooms, for folks who tipped a buck to dance to “Crazy” one more time.

I’ve even worked in a few churches.

I’d rather push-mow Jordan-Hare Stadium.

After I finished community college as an adult, I applied to three major universities. The idea was to do something with my life. Writing, perhaps.

I received three response letters. Here’s one from Tallahassee: “Dear applicant, we regret to inform you that whereupon reviewing your submission and transcripts, we believe that your mother sniffs your underpants, loser.”

I worked as a commercial painter, a concrete crewman, a deliveryman, I even worked in an ice cream shop.

One night, an old friend walked into the ice cream shop to see me behind the counter. He was a contractor. His business had become an overnight success. He had a beautiful family, a Land Rover, he took hunting trips to Canada.

I was wearing a pink and gray uniform with a paper hat. I asked if he wanted sprinkles. He didn’t.

He got them anyway.

I’m older now. And smarter—I hope. And there’s a reason I’m writing this. I’m not a great writer, but it doesn’t take someone great to tell you that you’re okay the way you are.

This year, it’s okay not to achieve your dreams. It’s okay to come in last place. There is no exit exam for life. No gradebook.

Some people try for greatness. Maybe they were made to be gorgeous, important, athletic, award-winners, and to hunt endangered albino squirrels in Canada alongside CEO’s of fast-food franchises.

And then there are people like me. I was made to put sprinkles on your ice cream.

But that doesn’t mean I’m not important. And the same goes for you. People like us must mean something to the Man Upstairs, because he made so many of us.

Anyway, I’d better get back inside. It’s almost midnight, and I’m half-frozen.

I love you more than you’ll ever know.

Happy New Year.

 

 

83 comments

  1. Gene Reynolds - January 1, 2018 5:38 am

    Happy New Year, Sean.
    Keep up the good writing in 2018.
    Roll Tide AND War Eagle! Let’s “cross the aisle” at Jordan Hare and Bryant Denny and be friends.
    From a fellow Southerner and native of Alexander City, near Eclectic!!

    Reply
  2. Elaine - January 1, 2018 5:40 am

    Love you too, Sean. Happy New Year!

    Reply
  3. B.e. Blue - January 1, 2018 5:43 am

    Happy New Year !

    Reply
    • Bill - January 1, 2018 1:49 pm

      Happy New Year Sean. One of my favorite spiritual leaders once said “Your not OK, I’m not OK, and that’s OK”

      Reply
  4. muthahun - January 1, 2018 5:43 am

    Happy New Year, Sean. I’m writing this from a warm living room in Freeport, ME where the temp outside is a balmy -4°… cold enough that your nose hairs freeze with that first breath and your lungs aren’t far behind. Had some friends over tonight for roast leg o’lamb, smashed potatoes, roasted broccoli, and a pear tart… wish I’d taken a picture ’cause it really did qualify as some pretty great food porn. Wish you and your honey and Ellie Mae lived closer so we could’ve invited you, too.
    Know this, my friend, you’ve been a spot of sunlight in a fairly dark and disturbing world this last year. Yup, you might say you’ve put some sprinkles on my days, and for that/those, I sure do thank you. You’re one o’the good guys; one of the guys I don’t have to fact check. Means a lot right now. Blessings for 2018. Stay warm, Sam

    Reply
  5. Dolores Fort - January 1, 2018 5:51 am

    Happy New Year, Sean. You have brightened every morning for me ever since I “found” you. Thank you for your words that seem to come alive. I can actually see what you are doing as you are writing. And that is truly a gift. The “Man upstairs” don’t make no junk! You are important, and material things are not what does that! Here’s to a very Happy, healthy and prosperous New Year for you, Jamie and Ellie Mae! God bless always.

    Reply
  6. Nancy - January 1, 2018 6:16 am

    Happy New Year, Sean! Thank you for all the gifts you give. God bless you and yours. I love you, too.

    Reply
  7. Dora - January 1, 2018 6:23 am

    Happy New Year Sean. I truly love reading your daily post. I think you are exactly how God wants you. I’m trying to figure myself out as well.

    Reply
  8. Linda - January 1, 2018 6:28 am

    Happy New Year, Sean. My parents owned a Carvel ice cream store. They both came from nothing and raised 5 good kids….we all worked at “ The Store “ I remember putting sprinkles on cones and seeing little kids smile and it was part of what made me want to be a teacher and so I was….funny what can inspire you…

    Reply
  9. Nona - January 1, 2018 6:42 am

    Happy New Year ☀️ May God bless you with plenty more words . Prayers for you and your wife for this next year. May your cup be full and over flow.

    Reply
  10. Carol Nimrod - January 1, 2018 7:14 am

    Thanks for being you and doing what you do. You are very important to a us strugglers; you know us well. Thanks for 2017. Happy 2018!

    Reply
  11. Penn Wells - January 1, 2018 7:18 am

    You ARE a great writer, but you’re an even better ‘closer.’ And you are important…..to a whole bunch of us. Keep writing, man.,,, we love you.

    Reply
  12. Debbie Grimm - January 1, 2018 7:29 am

    Happy 2018 Sean. Hope the new year brings many smiles your way!

    Reply
  13. Buffy Roberson - January 1, 2018 7:44 am

    Happy New Year! Thanks for what you do! I can’t wait to read you thoughts each morning.

    Reply
  14. Melanie Tighe - January 1, 2018 7:48 am

    Look forward to reading your words every day Sean. Best of health and wellbeing to you and your wife and Ellie Mae.

    Reply
  15. Lori A. Frank - January 1, 2018 8:02 am

    Happy New Year from next to my poor snoring husband in Leeds. I love the writings of your heart than YOU’LL ever know. I’ll be 55 this year and I hope I can stumble upon my calling like you have when I grow up. I had a moment covered in blue paint in front of a best buy that was akin to your paper hat. Thank you for the sprinkles in my mailbox.

    Reply
  16. Donna Crouch - January 1, 2018 8:05 am

    Thanks, Sean. I needed that! 🤓💕

    Reply
  17. Gigi - January 1, 2018 8:20 am

    Everything is better with sprinkles on it! So very glad I found your posts- they are the sprinkles on my day- happy new year!

    Reply
  18. Wanda Jewell - January 1, 2018 8:21 am

    From the land of “Not so important people” welome! Your Southern, which often means we have to multi task through life, to survive. There’s a heap o’learning in those hands on attempts to learn the old fashioned way that we’re more common than not. That life has twists and turns and it’s more about taking care of the pack than yourself. Maybe that’s why we run with coonhounds or any mutt that will snuggle our backs on a cold night. Either way, I hope there’s a “meeting on the grounds” in your future full of collards, black eyed peas and cornbread or fresh biscuits. Get your belly full, take a nap and write about some old people soon. They have all the answers. Maybe use their names. I’ve been putting a family tree together and other than census records and draft registrants and headstones there’s not much to go on. There’s still people alive that didn’t have more than a two room schoolhouse. We need to capture them somehow because we’re forgetting lessons learned by those gone away. Happy New Year Buddy.

    Reply
  19. Sandi in FL - January 1, 2018 9:18 am

    Sean, you have value. You have worth. God loves you unconditionally. Those of us who read your delightful, insightful writings are blessed that you share a slice of daily life with us every morning. Keep on keeping on.

    Reply
  20. Karen - January 1, 2018 9:19 am

    I have a PhD in neuroscience (earned at 47) I’ve self published 3 books and done a few other things that could go in the success column. Yet I failed in the relationship department and, at 75, am alone and lonely.

    I look forward to your thoughts and words everyday and feel that in some ways we’re kindred spirits so maybe I’m not so alone. Thank you for loving everyone. “The love you take is equal to the love you make.”

    Reply
  21. Rita - January 1, 2018 9:42 am

    You are a blessing. You write about a world I know, a place I call home. You encourage me, make me laugh and cry. Thank you for sharing the stories. Happy New Year to you.

    Reply
  22. Sandra - January 1, 2018 10:47 am

    Thank you, keep writing, that is your gift and purpose, you have much wisdom and that is something most of the world is missing now. Have a wonderful blessed 2018

    Reply
  23. Frank - January 1, 2018 11:12 am

    My favorite authors to read? Sandburg, Eliot, Whitman, Faulkner, Robert Penn Warren, Sean Dietrich. And not necessarily in that order.

    Now if you could just play piano better, you’d really have amounted to something!

    Be well, son. Enjoy 2018, and Thank You!

    Reply
  24. Howard Humphreys - January 1, 2018 11:19 am

    Happy New Year. I have always felt any door you walk through in life is important…Thank you for what you do for everyone you reach..

    Reply
  25. candyalso - January 1, 2018 11:31 am

    What a terrific year this has been, no thanks to anyone in Washington DC or any news outlets, or world leaders or televangelist, but because of you, Sean of the South, East, West and North! Happy 2018 to you and Jamie and Ellie Mae. We all look forward to your bright spot in this dim (wit) world.

    Reply
  26. carlinbrooks - January 1, 2018 11:59 am

    Happy New Year, Sean. I am sure your mother only sniffs your underpants after carefully laundering them. I think I have read your every post since a friend shared one with me early last year. I have even taken the time to read a lot of the earlier ones. I plan to read every one you write this year, too. All I know about you is what you have revealed in your writing. Most of that may be gospel truth, or it may be made up. If its all made up, I love the way you make things up. If it is true, you sure do a great job relaying the truth from life to the page. I think you and I share a lot of the same interests and values, so to me, you are a wonderful writer. You keep writing and I will keep reading. Deal? God bless you, and Thanks!
    Carlin Brooks

    Reply
  27. R Story - January 1, 2018 12:21 pm

    Never stop writing! I look forward to reading your email each morning!

    Reply
  28. Cathi - January 1, 2018 12:48 pm

    Sean, if there’s a better closer than you, I’ve yet to read him/her. Happy New Year to you and yours!

    Reply
  29. Becky - January 1, 2018 1:08 pm

    Sean, I think you have found your niche. You make ordinary life seem exciting. Your outlook and amazing words about life help those who struggle with feeling lonely and unimportant. I look forward to every post you have and still want to hear you speak. Thank you for the sprinkles you have added to my life.

    Reply
  30. George - January 1, 2018 1:12 pm

    Happy New Year, Sean! I can’t wait to read your stories everyday. Thanks for my good friend Roy in Dothan for introducing you to me.

    Reply
  31. LeAnne - January 1, 2018 1:15 pm

    Sean, you are the only writer whose words I read every day without fail. You have made me a better writer. and observer. So here are a few heartfelt words from me to you: Happy New Year. God’s blessings on you and your wife in 2018. And thank you.

    Reply
    • LeAnne - January 1, 2018 1:27 pm

      Clearly, my observation skills failed me in this case, but typos keep us humble, right?

      Reply
  32. sec040121 - January 1, 2018 1:37 pm

    On my list of resolutions is to read your blog every day. It’s literally a wake-up call for decency and civility. When you run out of Alabama stories, come on over to Mississippi for awhile. We’ll show you some mirror-image tales. Thanks so much for your daily musings and best wishes for a peaceful New Year.

    Reply
  33. Judy Ennis - January 1, 2018 1:38 pm

    Sean wishing you the happiest new year. May your 2018 be filled with love and happiness! I’m so thankful my friend,Lorraine,introduced me to you. Maybe our paths will cross one day. But in the meantime, I look forward to reading you daily. May the good Lord Bless and Keep You and your family…….

    Reply
  34. Pamela Verbel - January 1, 2018 1:45 pm

    In 2018, I will be reading your writing everyday. I promise with double sprinkles on top. Happy New Year!

    Reply
  35. Jeannie - January 1, 2018 1:55 pm

    Back to you❤️Happy New Year!

    Reply
  36. Nancy - January 1, 2018 2:03 pm

    Sean, there is one thing you said that’s correct – you’re not a great writer – you’re an AWESOME writer who touches hearts and lives every day! Especially mine. I hope your 2018 is totally amazing and you are one my bucket list to hear speak one day. Love you more than you know too?

    Reply
  37. Connie - January 1, 2018 2:11 pm

    Several people have already said it better than I can, but you are important. I read you every day. I have four of your books in print and two on my electronic book. I have every column you have read since I first stumbled across your writing last year, saved on my phone. I have all these so that no matter where I am, if I have a few minutes to read, your words are easily available. You give light to a lot of us every day. Thank you. Happy New Year to you and yours.

    Reply
  38. Susie Hardin - January 1, 2018 2:16 pm

    Thank you for your words that are real with much meaning that we can relate our lives to! Every morning I look forward to reading your article. Happy New Year!

    Reply
  39. Laura - January 1, 2018 2:26 pm

    The world defines success as having lots of material things, power, fame, stardom, etc. BUT, that is not success to me. Living a life you love, even if in a shack or tent can be success. Spending a life helping others is success. And helping others isn’t always about giving money or clothes or even food. It can be helping people with their self esteem, giving them guidance with decisions to be made, encouraging them in struggles, making them laugh or bringing them to tears to let out emotions that need to go. It can be about loving people and making them smile in the midst of a world filled with too much hate and evil. Sean, you are a success because you do all those things. Although I only met you at a talk you did in Montgomery, I really love you Sean for all you do for others! Thank you for being the kind of success that loves people and shows it!

    Reply
  40. Lew - January 1, 2018 2:37 pm

    Yep , know the thought . Happy New Year !

    Reply
  41. Mariam - January 1, 2018 3:08 pm

    Backatchya Sean
    we Love You More Thank You’ll Ever Know–blessings to you & yours(Ellie Mae included) for this 2018 to bring you Happiness,Love & Peace beyond measure!

    Reply
  42. Patsy Richey - January 1, 2018 3:11 pm

    You are loved and respected by so many, and that is something you need to know!

    Reply
  43. jnearen - January 1, 2018 3:17 pm

    If you’re ever around Orange Beach, Alabama, on a Sunday morning I invite you to stop by the church that meets at the Flora-Bama (9 and 11). Our motto is “it’s Okay to Not be Okay.” Your article made me think of that phrase. Happy New Year! Jim and Jill

    Reply
  44. judemiller1 - January 1, 2018 3:25 pm

    For all the joy, comfort and thought provoking words you bring to all of us, I’d say you are a great success!!! XX OO Gramma Judy

    Reply
  45. Brenda Rey - January 1, 2018 3:40 pm

    Happy New Year to you and yours also Sean. You will not need to resort to push mowing Jordan Hare field. As cold as it is 30 miles south of it (Phenix City) it will be well frozen and all the agricultural expertise in the world coming of of Dear Auburn will not suffice to keep those little blades of grass alive. Stay warm, eat plenty of black eyed peas, greens, ham and cornbread. You just cannot give up on Southern Tradition. Roll Tide my friend!

    Reply
  46. Fran Harmon - January 1, 2018 3:40 pm

    I never comment but couldn’t NOT on this one. Life is short…get lots of sprinkles. You are the real deal Sean! Happy New Year!

    Reply
  47. Sheila Robertson - January 1, 2018 3:59 pm

    HAPPY NEW YEAR TO SEAN. I WANT TO HAVE SPRINKLES IN 2018…

    Reply
  48. Jim Moody - January 1, 2018 4:15 pm

    Important and unique Sean. Happy New Year🎉

    Reply
  49. Terry - January 1, 2018 4:23 pm

    Well, Sean, all I know is i’m always glad to see your e-mail in our box. Always happy to read what you have to say. Thank you for your verbage and a Happy New Year to you and yours!

    Reply
  50. Jack - January 1, 2018 4:24 pm

    You are beloved, Sean!

    Reply
  51. Sarah Kennard - January 1, 2018 4:29 pm

    Your frankness about your life experiences is so comforting. It is a constant reassurance that my life and my own experiences are nothing to sneeze at.
    Thank you.

    Reply
  52. Karen - January 1, 2018 4:40 pm

    I think you are wonderful.

    Reply
  53. Donna Saunders - January 1, 2018 4:46 pm

    Sean, You are a great observer and communicator …. we are enlarged by your gift of recognizing the magnificence in the ordinary. Thank you for perserving! Blessings to you and those you love.

    Reply
  54. Tana Branch - January 1, 2018 4:56 pm

    I read you every morning, Sean….wouldn’t miss. You are part of my day. Happy New Year! And, you deserve every good thing that’s happened to you. From another old Episcopalian 🙂

    Reply
  55. Jakki - January 1, 2018 5:05 pm

    Happy New Year Sean, Jamie, Ellie Mae! Your thoughts on the meaning of life are the first words I choose to read every morning.

    Reply
  56. Pat - January 1, 2018 5:17 pm

    And a Happy New Year backatcha! Wonderful message. I appreciate those who work at jobs some of us do not want to do (as long as it’s an honest day’s work)!

    Reply
  57. Linda Chipman - January 1, 2018 5:23 pm

    I don’t leave a comment everyday but I do read your columns and think about them. This one is especially good on a day like today. Happy New Year Sean!

    Reply
  58. David D-B - January 1, 2018 5:35 pm

    Happy New Year to you and your family.

    Reply
  59. Jennice Ratley - January 1, 2018 5:47 pm

    Happy New Year Sean! Thank you for sharing with us every day! A college friend of mine, John Blase, shared something about you on Facebook and I have laughed and cried with you everyday since. This past March, I lost my big brother and even though the tears still fall more often than I would like, your writing makes me realize that memories and faith are a powerful and comforting combination. I have shared your posts with family and friends many times when they have touched my heart and I LOVE YOU TOO!!

    Reply
  60. Robin Espinoza - January 1, 2018 5:48 pm

    Happy New Year! Keep on writing and inspiring!

    Reply
  61. Helen Taylor Andrews - January 1, 2018 5:54 pm

    Love this story, Sean! I know what you were meant to do but it took you a while to get around to doing it. We, your readers, are the proof that you are doing what God intended you to do, which is write about finding the good in every day life, writing about the ordinary days of the ordinary man. You are so popular on Facebook that you cannot accept more friends. That speaks volumes to me. People love your ‘simple’ words as you call them. Simple they may be but they are the very words that folks want, and need to hear. God bless you in the New Year as you write your wonderful stories!

    Reply
  62. Ann - January 1, 2018 6:06 pm

    We love you back! Keep on writing, Sean!

    Reply
  63. Ava McCurley - January 1, 2018 6:37 pm

    Happy New Year, Sean. My mother told me that not everyone needed to be a rocket scientist. Someone has to read meters and dig ditches. We are all important.

    Reply
  64. Pat Byers - January 1, 2018 6:48 pm

    to all the comments above, I add ..me too. I LOVE your writing. your insights, your caring soul. keep on keeping on.

    Reply
  65. Sandra Smith - January 1, 2018 7:06 pm

    I wish the whole world could see this !
    Happy New Year, Sean !

    Reply
  66. Lois M Cockerill - January 1, 2018 8:01 pm

    And you are loved more than you could ever know, Sean of the South. Amazing man with amazing insight to the REAL things in life. Happy New Year, Sean Dietrich.

    Reply
  67. Branton Riley - January 1, 2018 8:32 pm

    Thanks Sean. Sounds like my resume!

    Reply
  68. Joya Taylor - January 1, 2018 9:39 pm

    I love you too

    Reply
  69. Jack Darnell - January 2, 2018 12:00 am

    Yeah, and it is okay to succeed after 42, also. 😉 I am enjoying the first book. I honestly have never liked short stories, until I read yours. Thanks. Happy New Year, it will be a good one!

    Reply
  70. Juliann - January 2, 2018 12:05 am

    I love how your heart comes through your fingers as you type. Really. I offer my opinion in the most positive; you write Grizzard-esque. Best wishes to you and yours in ‘18.

    Reply
  71. Kathy Burgess - January 2, 2018 12:31 am

    You are just dadgum precious. May this be your
    best year ever. I love you back…with sprinkles on top.

    Reply
  72. Jo - January 2, 2018 12:53 am

    Thank you for adding sprinkles to my life. May you continue to add to my life and many others in 2018. And I am hoping that Jessie the stray will be adopted this week! I hear you are going to be at Taste of the Krewe in Dothan this week. Dress warmly!!! This week is not the normal southern winter!

    Reply
  73. Gloria Wethington - January 2, 2018 1:46 am

    Sean, in one of your posts, you said you wanted to be “nice.” Well, you are that and you’re much, much more! You’re compassionate and loving and encouraging and REAL. You’re all the things that matter in life. And you inspire people with your gift of writing. In my book you can’t get more successful than that! Happy New Year!

    Reply
  74. Beverly Schaffer - January 2, 2018 1:58 am

    You are such a good writer. I love your take on life. Happy 2018!

    Reply
  75. Michael Hawke - January 2, 2018 3:57 am

    You make a difference in so many lives. Thank you.

    Reply
  76. Dawn G. Todhunter - January 2, 2018 4:00 am

    And we love you.

    Reply
  77. London - January 2, 2018 6:06 pm

    I enjoy your writing more than most books that are edited to perfection. You’re authentic and we love you! Thank you. I’m 3/4 the way down writing my memoir and I don’t think I’m a great writer, but God has plans for it regardless and I can only hope that someone, just one is moved or changed.

    Have a blessed New Year!!!

    Reply
  78. Dianne DeVore - January 2, 2018 7:13 pm

    And, thank God he did make us all different. How dull this world would be if we were all the same. Thank you for your blogs!!

    Reply
  79. Susan Hammett Poole - January 3, 2018 9:26 am

    Omigoodness, just think what we would have missed if Sean Dietrich had not taken pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. Sean, you give your readers JOY and ‘food for thought’ every single day with your blogs and books. You probably cannot imagine how deeply your words affect us all. THANK YOU from our hearts as I speak for those who delight in your messages. May 2018 be your most wonderful year ever.

    Reply
  80. Patricia Schmaltz - January 3, 2018 1:01 pm

    Sean, all of your writing are like love letters to the masses. Oddly enough, every day, when I read your posts, it resonates with me on some level. Thank you, and wishing you a HEALTHY, happy, and productive 2018… with sprinkles on top!
    Love you back!!

    Reply
  81. ponder304 - January 6, 2018 1:51 pm

    You are the sparkle in each day….kind of like sprinkles on ice cream! Thank you!

    Reply

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