An old woman and her daughter sat at the table beside mine. The woman was in a wheelchair, with messy hair. And talkative.

It’s the day before my birthday and it’s cold in Coosa County, Alabama. Lake Martin never looked so good.

You won’t care about this, but fifteen years ago I didn’t know my purpose on this planet. Today, I’m middle-aged, and I still don’t know—only, now I have a bad back.

This morning, I ate breakfast at Cracker Barrel. Cracker Barrel, it should be noted, doesn’t have the greatest biscuits, but in a pinch they’ll keep you alive.

An old woman and her daughter sat at the table beside mine. The woman was in a wheelchair, with messy hair. And talkative.

“That man needs to shave!” she hollered.

Several people in the room giggled.

Cute, I was thinking, looking around the for an abominable snowman.

“He needs to SHAVE!” she shouted again, this time in my general direction.

“Mama,” gasped her daughter. “Be nice.”

I smiled at the old woman. And that’s when it hit me. This lady was yelling about me.

I am the Bigfoot.

And I became a middle-schooler again. It was like a bad dream, only without the corduroy pants and the Barry Manilow music.

The woman’s daughter apologized. But I told her it wasn’t necessary.

The old lady went on, “Your face looks like a big, fat bear!”

Precious memories. How they linger.

Eventually, she calmed and I finished breakfast in peace. She, more or less, forgot about me—until I stood to leave. Then, she noticed me again.

Her old passions reignited.

“Go shave your dumb face!” she hollered.

The daughter whispered to me, “I’m SO sorry, my mother has no filter.”

I got into my truck and took a few breaths. I looked into the rearview mirror.

I don’t know what that woman might be going through. Maybe she’s not in control of her mind. Maybe she’s had a traumatic experience involving too much hair.

Either way, all I could see in my mirror was a chubby middle-schooler who looked like Cousin It. I saw a boy I’d almost forgotten. A mediocre athlete, a redhead, a C-student, a face like a Pilsbury ad.

My birthday is on the horizon, I’m thinking, and some woman just called me ugly. In public. Repeatedly.

It started in my belly and went to my throat. I laughed. Hard. I don’t know why. The universe has a sense of humor, I guess.

Funny, what words can do to a man. Simple, little words. They can make you feel good. Or bad. Or they can make you feel like the mascot for U.S. forest fire prevention.

So my purpose in life. I still don’t know what it is. But I can tell you my aspiration: to be nice.

That’s it.

I don’t have any grand plan. No big ideas. I just want to be the fella who smiles more than he doesn’t.

If you ask me—which you didn’t—the world has enough people who have figured life out. They’re smart, prudent, with four-car garages.

That’s not me. I can’t even remember how to play Bingo. But I do know the person I want to be. I want to be the man who hugs strangers, pets stray dogs, and uses nice words. A man you might pass on the street, then say to yourself:

“Look, there goes a nice guy…

“Who just happens to look like Sasquatch.”

51 comments

  1. Larry J (Bubba) Hughes - December 29, 2017 8:22 am

    My mother-in-law, at 86, has no filter either! I’ve had a beard for over 30 years; married to her daughter for over 40 years and she still tells me I need to shave that mess off my face!! Probably do need to- it’s all white now and not even thick enough to make a KMart Santa. You keep your beard! You will make a darn good Santa one day!

    Reply
  2. Pamela McEachern - December 29, 2017 8:49 am

    What about paddington bear, his is nice and really cute, it would all be covered then. Sorry about the lady, she must have had some kind of flashback to not such a nice guy. I hope you have a beautiful birthday, I for one am very glad you came along to help all of us out here have some great memories and a better day too. Jamie I know you have a special day planned for him, how about an extra birthday hug from all of us out here just waiting on his next words and wisdom.
    Peace and Love from Birmingham 🎂

    Reply
  3. James - December 29, 2017 10:55 am

    Happy Birthday…from one nice guy to another!

    Reply
  4. Gail Stewart - December 29, 2017 11:01 am

    Sounds like a case of dementia or she has some other brain disorder set on by age. Don’t let it get to you! If you have ever worked in a nursing home you would have skin as thick as cow hide. So please continue to be your wonderful uplifting self that keeps the rest of going on days when we feel like quiting! Happy Birthday! 🎂🎉🎈🍾🎁❤️

    Reply
    • Pat - December 29, 2017 4:17 pm

      I so agree Gail…and if it was intentional on the woman’s part, shame on her! More of us need to respond as Sean did and just not be offended. God know there’s enough of that going on!

      Reply
  5. Marty from Alabama - December 29, 2017 11:53 am

    But look whose face is warm this morning. You need that face covering in this Alabama deep freeze we are in now. Go laugh and have a good day.

    Reply
  6. Nina Thompson - December 29, 2017 12:20 pm

    “Be nice.” I think that is the best aspiration a person could have…..it is what I strive to accomplish every day.

    Reply
  7. Teresa - December 29, 2017 12:58 pm

    Happy Birthday!! Have a wonderful day. Eat a big piece of cake!

    Reply
  8. Regena - December 29, 2017 1:03 pm

    Sean…I have two gentle-giant Sasquatch brothers….and two sons….never change…never change sweet man!

    Reply
  9. Connie - December 29, 2017 1:15 pm

    I strive to always be nice. My kids tease me all the time about it-I talk to anybody who will talk back, I smile way more than is normal, and very rarely lose my temper. I’ve been on the receiving end of mean words too many times and I know how much they hurt. Love and hugs.

    Reply
  10. Karen - December 29, 2017 1:25 pm

    I happen to think your beard is delightful. Power on Sasquatch.

    Reply
  11. Lisa Ison - December 29, 2017 1:31 pm

    Hey Sean, you are right on the money with this one. The world needs more NICE. The one thing I hate more than anything in the world is to apologize…so that keeps my mouth shut on most occasions, not always, but mostly! I have a sign at my front door that says, “Be nice or leave.” I mean it. I actually did a Strong’s Bible study on the word but could not find it anywhere in the big book. That left me puzzled. I really thought it should have been one of the big 10, Thou shalt be nice. So, instead I found the word “kind” and studied it. It has tremendous depth, much more than being nice. It has purpose. To be kind means that whatever you do or say, it has a helpful connotation. Being kind means that you have a reason and purpose to what you do that reaches beyond the superficial, “Hi, how are you?” to actually doing or saying something that will have lasting effect or meaning. I like that! I still will be nice, be polite, remember my manners, but now I am more focused on the effect I have on the people I come across. Have a blessed day…I really mean it!

    Reply
  12. Faye from Virginia - December 29, 2017 2:00 pm

    My first reply here because this one took me back 50 years. I was the farmers daughter, not one of the cool kids and they reminded me of that daily. I saw one of those cool kids recently and if you can believe it she looked at me just as she used to in middle school. It still hurts, so to everybody, BE NICE!

    Reply
  13. Patricia Schmaltz - December 29, 2017 2:06 pm

    Kindness is my daily goal. If someone is nasty, then respond with kindness. It throws them off, and makes you feel better at the same time. Btw… I think you are naturally kind and nice. Easy peasy!

    Reply
  14. Smitty - December 29, 2017 2:10 pm

    Good one here, Sean. Pretty good legacy to work toward – after you’ve passed – either down the street or into the next dimension – for folks to say, “there goes a nice guy”.

    Reply
  15. Earl Williams - December 29, 2017 2:21 pm

    You are my kind, Sean..

    Reply
  16. Jack Darnell - December 29, 2017 2:27 pm

    Okay, here is my advice (although you didn’t ask for it!) Stay out of Cracker Barrel! And from one beard to another SHAVE or be nice!
    Dementia can make a person nice or nasty. This is not a scientific fact but in my mind, I think the REAL YOU comes out once you are demented. At times it is sad.
    As always I like the way you see the world.

    Reply
  17. Carole Lea - December 29, 2017 2:33 pm

    You are nice and that fact shines through in your writings. This world needs more nice. I’m glad you are in my world….beard and all!!

    Reply
  18. Regina Chandler - December 29, 2017 2:36 pm

    A good man with a good heart is a handsome man to me. I believe you to be a good man with a good heart.

    Reply
  19. Gwen McGill - December 29, 2017 2:50 pm

    I love your beard! Also, I think Cracker Barrel makes an awesome biscuit! I consider myself a good cook. It is my passion. My attempts at biscuits have produced biscuit “bricks” and many other biscuit fails. Love me some Cracker Barrel biscuits!

    Reply
  20. Laura - December 29, 2017 2:54 pm

    I can think of no greater aspiration than to be a nice man. Mother (92 y.o.) hates facial hair on men, too, but so far, even in her demetia, she doesn’t scream it out (she does say it to me, sometimes at a normal voice so I worry someone will hear and be offended). However, she also many, many years ago taught us children to be nice and she always said “Pretty/Handsome is as pretty/handsome does” so when you are nice you are truly handsome!!

    Reply
  21. Sue Cronkite - December 29, 2017 3:04 pm

    I had a nephew, Jimmy, who had lots if beard. He died last week from a heart attack. Eat well. Brush your teeth. Laugh often. I can tell already that you’re nice.

    Reply
  22. Anne Isbell - December 29, 2017 3:07 pm

    You are a wonderful person! Never forget that. Reading your column each morning is the highlight of my day. The world needs more nice people and it needs you to keep reminding us that people are good; that the world is not ending; that we can truly can make a difference with our everyday actions. Keep up the wonderful work and have a happy new year!

    Reply
  23. Sandi in FL - December 29, 2017 3:17 pm

    Sean, hope your birthday is spectacular! You deserve a special, memorable, blessed day, every day, not just on your birthday. I will add this: I’ve often wondered what you look like without a beard, but hey, it’s your face, so do as you wish!

    Reply
  24. Jones - December 29, 2017 3:26 pm

    Being kind and nice…you’ve cut to the chase. At a time when many people have goals for “success” and are making resolutions, they somehow overlook the obvious. You do a great job helping us keep things in perspective. Thank you.

    Keep laughing and shrug it off. I imagine the elderly lady’s family member is still embarrassed by the comments…anyone who has experience with family members struggling w any form of dementia knows too well about the lack of a filter.
    One person’s comments do not define you.

    Have a wonderful birthday!!!

    Reply
  25. Debra Crosby - December 29, 2017 3:37 pm

    After having met you with my brother in Andalusia, the guy with the nickels on his hat, you can understand that if looks mattered or reactions of others, I wouldn’t have been there. Hope you have a wonderful birthday. I spend my life trying to be kind and have 28 years of teaching kids behind me and lots of love to prove it. May you be blessed in all you do.

    Reply
  26. Debi Kilpatrick - December 29, 2017 3:42 pm

    Oh, Lord have mercy! Too funny! This reminded me of my sweet Granny. My Granny had no filter in her later years, but I just couldn’t help laughing uncontrollably at some of the things she said! Difference, her hair was always spot on! I would apologize, when appropriate, but always with a laugh. I believe this let the victim know that this was not to be taken seriously. I hope. They usually laughed, too. Oh. Most of the people I know have beards, from groomed to weedwhacker ready. I love most of them. Anyway, happy birthday, Sean. Congratulations on one more successful trip around the sun. ❤️

    Reply
  27. Mariam - December 29, 2017 4:01 pm

    Happy Early Birthday Sean! I love knowing you are a Capricorn along with me ! May your day be filled with as much compassion, joy & love as you share with your readers! Be blessed with many more years to enjoy Your Day…🤗🎉👏🎈🎶🍰🍦😊🙏🌈

    Reply
  28. GeeGee Chandler - December 29, 2017 4:09 pm

    I have seen you plenty of times at ASF church. You are plenty GOOD LOOKING, HANDSOME, and NICE.

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  29. Gloria - December 29, 2017 4:10 pm

    Have a wonderful birthday tomorrow!

    Reply
  30. andoro16 - December 29, 2017 4:35 pm

    Sean, thank you. First, this reminds me of my mom. I was sure she would get us thrown out of some places. Luckily we made it through. Second, the reminder of “nice” is always so welcome and appropriate. I’m going to incorporate that into my list of goals for the new year. Maybe I can do it better than I lose weight…

    Reply
  31. Pat Byers - December 29, 2017 4:55 pm

    do NOT shave your beard.

    Reply
  32. Jakki - December 29, 2017 5:03 pm

    Happy Birthday Sean! Have a wonderful year. Beard or no beard – much more important to be nice.

    Reply
    • Mignon Croft Watson - December 30, 2017 2:19 am

      Happy Birthday. Happy New Year. Keep up your good work.

      Reply
  33. Kathy Wolfe - December 29, 2017 5:12 pm

    I think that you are a handsome man and I’m not just being nice. The picture with the pencil behind your ear is great!! I noticed you didn’t know how to call bingo the other day in one of your stories but I was NICE and didn’t make fun of you. Your writing has brought joy to my heart and tears to my eyes. Always be yourself.
    Love, Grammy

    Reply
  34. Rebecca Walters Cleghorn - December 29, 2017 5:33 pm

    Thank you for your wonderful sense of humor and the way you care about others! What a wonderful world it would be if we all would be nice to one another! Hope you have a fantastically blessed birthday! (And the facial hair will be nice this coming week with the cold front that’s coming!)

    Reply
  35. Cathy - December 29, 2017 5:44 pm

    Happy birthday to one of the nicest, kindest, most tender hearted persons I know.

    Reply
  36. Jeri Shuck - December 29, 2017 7:24 pm

    Wouldn’t it be great if everyone strived to be nice instead of trying to have more material possessions? I look forward to reading your posts!

    Reply
  37. Ellen in West Central GA. - December 29, 2017 8:05 pm

    That poor woman sound like she has some dementia and probably needs glasses. You are very handsome and kind, not to mention multi talented. Thank you for your writing. It is so uplifting. Happy Birthday Sean of the South! I love you!!

    Reply
  38. Lois M Cockerill - December 29, 2017 10:16 pm

    Hi Sean, we love you “just the way you are” a bearded, handsome, nice man with a wonderful way with words. BTW, Happy Birthday.

    Reply
  39. GAIL TRAYLOR - December 29, 2017 10:53 pm

    Hi Sean, You and I share the same birthday, December 30, the MOST BORING DAY OF THE YEAR. But I’ve seen photos of you with my sister when you spoke in Montgomery and I think you look good. My sister thinks you look good. Plus, you ARE a good person and that makes you look better. So there. That settles it. The old lady is delusional for some reason.

    Happy Birthday and Happy New Year! Gail from Ramer, AL

    Reply
  40. Pat Irvin - December 29, 2017 11:10 pm

    She didn’t call you ugly, she called you “hairy.” “Hairy” is a choice, ugly is not. If you like facial hair, it’s your face and your choice.

    Reply
  41. Frieda Borntrager - December 30, 2017 2:27 am

    Seems to me you have met your goal long, long, ago. Have yourself a very Happy Birthday! And if you think of it, kiss Ellie Mae for me. At least once.

    Reply
  42. muthahun - December 30, 2017 3:29 am

    Books, covers… you can change your grooming. I doubt the poor lady can clean up her mind, and bless her daughter for taking her out in public… even if the biscuits are second rate. Don’t get too much frosting in yer beard, but if you do, Ellie Mae will likely take care of it for you. Happy birthday, Sean. You’re a nice man. And a delightful writer.

    Reply
  43. Michael Hawke - December 30, 2017 3:56 am

    May my wife and I wish you a very Happy Birthday. By the way, it’s my great nephew’s birthday. He’s three. And a red-head.

    Reply
  44. Janet Mary Lee - December 30, 2017 6:58 am

    Bless her heart! (We have lucked out and had good biscuits and cornbread at Cracker Barrel!). Don’t you know we all have our warts, so to speak! But we all do not have your gift of simply spun tales of humor, kindness, and love. Spin on Sir! Have an incredible Birthday with your eyes, your heart, and your beard!!

    Reply
  45. rustyshouse - December 30, 2017 4:22 pm

    Oh how much do I LOVE you and your gift of words and writing!!!!!!!!!! TEARS and laughter allat one sitting!!!!!

    Reply
  46. D. White - December 30, 2017 7:09 pm

    I always read your articles. This one was especially good, I thought. We all need to be nicer!

    Reply
  47. Sandra Grooms - December 31, 2017 12:10 am

    Happy Birthday! Your articles are like my daily devotions. They make me want to be a better person.

    Reply
  48. Teri Freeman Butler - December 31, 2017 5:39 am

    Sean, I want to somehow express how much your columns have meant to me. I’ve commented on them before but I was relatively benign and supportive. I’ve recently received news from my cardiologist that I’m dying and WOW, that will change your perspective on life in a hot minute! Your sincerity and honesty are so refreshing and funny! My childhood in Georgia is not so different from yours…honest, kind, loving people who helped their neighbors. We are a fortunate group. Please keep sharing our heritage.

    Reply
  49. Lorry Lorraine - January 2, 2018 3:43 pm

    You *are* nice, Sean! You just made me laugh! Reading your post in bed, cuz I couldn’t find a ride to work this morning. My car is broke. It *feels like* 3 degrees outside and it’s probly only 53 in here. We can’t even gather in the living room. Too cold. 3 blankets, plus 1 dog on my bed, and I’m shivering. But for a minute I forgot this. Your words made me forget and made me laugh! Thank you! Long live Sasquatch. I love you.

    Reply

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