Nice Days

That was not a good night. It was not a good decade. I stopped believing in things. I went years without eating ice cream, watching baseball, or smiling.

It’s late. I’m driving to Palatka, Florida. I am listening to Willie Nelson’s greatest hits. I’m two hours in. Three left to go.

The trees just outside Tallahassee are weighted with Spanish moss. The highway is almost empty. Willie sings about a good-hearted woman.

I’m thinking about a boy I just met. A boy who told me to “have a good day.”

Yeah, I know. Big deal. Everyone says that. Even clinically depressed employees at Walmart tell you to have a good day.

Not like this.

It was a Dairy Queen. I stopped to get something to-go for lunch. There, I saw a child in a wheelchair, sitting in the dining room. He had no arms, no legs.

His mother was feeding him. His younger sister was wiping his mouth between bites. He wore a smile that stretched to both sideburns.

He tried to speak with his mouth full. Ice cream fell onto his shirt. His sister wiped it. He laughed. His mother laughed. His sister laughed.

I decided to eat in the dining room. I talked to the boy. He said he’d had a nice day. He’d just seen a movie with his “girls” a few hours earlier.

He’s eleven.

I finished my meal. I bid him goodbye. He wheeled his chair to me, using what I will refer to as his arms.

He held out his right arm. And even though he has no hand, I recognized the look on his face. He wanted to shake.

We shake.

“Have a good day, sir,” he says.

The universe got smaller. The air got warm. And I saw sunlight flood a Dairy Queen in North Florida.

I’m back in my truck. Willie is singing. And I’m thinking about a kid.

I was twelve when my father engineered his own death. That was not a good day.

Later that same week, my friend Jason and his mother took me to a movie—to help take my mind off morbid things. I said two words all night.

We went to a Dairy Queen after the movie. I ate four ice cream cones. I don’t know why.

At the end of the night, they dropped me at the end of our long dirt driveway. My friend’s mother gave me a mournful look and said, “Have a good night, sweetie.”


Her tail lights disappear in the dark. I walked toward the house. My stomach churned. I doubled over and vomited until I couldn’t. It had nothing to do with ice cream.

Vomiting turned into crying. Crying turned into wailing. Wailing turned into falling asleep in the gravel driveway.

That was not a good night. It was not a good decade. I stopped believing in things. I went years without eating ice cream, watching baseball, or smiling.

And I sure as hell didn’t care to hear Willie sing.

But I’m not that kid anymore. And this world isn’t like it was. Yeah, I know what news channels say. Terrorism is on the rise. Inflation is making the world poor. Alabama has shut down because of the flu.

But this world isn’t bad. I have known good men and women who proved it to me by having the audacity to care. I have seen days so packed with sunshine they’d make your teeth hurt.

Today was one of those days.

Thank you for shaking my hand, Derrick. I have had a good day.

And it’s because of you.


  1. Gloria - January 13, 2018 12:30 pm

    Sean, I am so thankful that you see a soul when others just see a person. You make the world a better place by opening our eyes to see the humanity rather than the human.

    • Pat Byers - January 14, 2018 4:10 pm

      what Gloria said, I second. others may or may not see a person. but they rarely see a soul. you do. and then tell us about it, and in the process, make us better.

      • Jane - January 17, 2018 5:50 pm

        I totally agree with Gloria and Pat! Sean, thank you for helping all of us to see more than a person. I truly thank you!

  2. janiesjottings - January 13, 2018 12:38 pm

    Sean, reading your column to my husband this morning as we drive to town. Once again our hearts have been touched. Thank you for blessing our day!

  3. LeAnne - January 13, 2018 1:01 pm

    Thank you, Sean. Reading your column is a great way to start a good day.

  4. Lewe S. West - January 13, 2018 2:01 pm

    As always great inspiration shared from life. I look forward to your posts each day!

  5. Jacque Kochak - January 13, 2018 2:04 pm

    Thanks, and keep reminding us there is reason to keep on keepin’ on.

  6. Rita J. Naftel - January 13, 2018 2:12 pm

    Thank you Sean for a ray of sunshine to begin my day! It makes me feel so blessed to just have the flu! And, I will, “Have a great day”! You too!

  7. Marilyn - January 13, 2018 2:16 pm

    Sean, thanks for starting my mornings on a positive note. I am looking forward to seeing you in Decatur Alabama at the Princess Theatre on February 2!

  8. Cecilia Robbins - January 13, 2018 2:30 pm

    God bless you.

  9. Lucretia Jones - January 13, 2018 2:54 pm

    Thank you, Derrick! Thank you, Sean. My teeth are hurting…..

  10. muthahun - January 13, 2018 4:07 pm

    Blessings all ’round. Much to be said for counting them these days. Thanks, Sean

  11. Donna Dicks - January 13, 2018 4:19 pm

    Love this post…you ALWAYS get to the heart of the matter and tell us what really matters. Thank you again.

  12. Noelle Stevens - January 13, 2018 4:28 pm

    Kindness never costs a thing. So why do people find it so hard to give? You bring light into my world Sean. And I hope you have a great day. Mine will be a little lighter having read your words. Thank you. God shines through you you know.

  13. Patrick M. - January 13, 2018 5:16 pm

    I was listening to Willie when I read your post this morning. I’ll take that as a sign that it will indeed be a nice day.

  14. Yvonne Bradeen - January 13, 2018 5:23 pm

    Mr. Sean,
    I work at a barn where we put people with disabilities onto horses for therapy.
    I understand your reaction to meeting this young man-that’s the feeling I get every day I spend with my riders.
    If I arrive at the barn in a crummy mood, all I need to do is look around and my heart is full.

  15. Pat - January 13, 2018 5:58 pm

    Well this certainly put things into perspective for me today! Thanks Sean!

  16. Perri Williamson - January 13, 2018 6:15 pm


  17. Linda - January 13, 2018 6:25 pm

    I will have a good day; thanks for your reminder that there are those out there who are much worse off than I am! Keep Up the excellent writing!

  18. Linda Chipman - January 13, 2018 9:39 pm

    You have a wonderful ability to put things into perspective and make me feel good. Thank you.

  19. D. White - January 13, 2018 9:55 pm

    I look forward to reading your short stories each time I get on my computer. Most make me smile, some are heartwarming. Some cause me to think. But they are always interesting. Some, I think, help me be a better person.

  20. Dotti - January 14, 2018 4:22 am

    Thank goodness for those who can find joy in the “small” things of daily life. And be able to see that they are the BIG things that we need take note of. I am so glad you can now listen to Willie and eat ice cream.
    I lost my husband the same way. My heart goes out to you, age 12-22, and so glad you are here.
    As with D. White’s comment: totally agree


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