Thank You

I’m not supposed to be here. People like me are supposed to be other places. Maybe installing tile, hanging sheetrock, or swinging hammers. Instead, I’m riding Highway 274, behind a log truck at eight in the morning, writing this.

Mid-morning—my wife is driving us across the Old South. I am writing from the passenger seat. We do this a lot. She drives. I write.

There are log trucks ahead of us. Red flags, flying from the tips of fresh-cut pines, traveling fifty-one miles per hour.

I’m on my way to speak to a roomful of teachers in Altha, Florida—a community of five hundred folks.

Me. A child who grew up quick, who lost a father, who didn’t attend high school, who went to community college late in life. Speaking, as though I have anything to say.

It’s hard to believe. No. It’s humbling.

Last week, I spoke to an auditorium of folks. The stagelights made me sweat. I was there to tell stories, and that’s what I did.

My whole life, I believed I was below others. My father’s death did that to me. It made me different. Hard upbringings make different boys.

Anyway, I’m not supposed to be here. People like me are supposed to be other places. Maybe installing tile, hanging sheetrock, or swinging hammers.

Instead, I’m riding Highway 274, behind a log truck at eight in the morning, writing this.

I get to meet people.

In North Georgia, for instance, I met a baby who was born without eyesight. I held that child and felt her breath on my neck.

I met a ninety-year-old who told me about gutting lizards and crows for supper during the Depression.

And in Atlanta, I talked to a group of children whose loved ones have killed themselves—like mine did.

An abused women’s shelter. A handful of coffee shops. Rotary Clubs. Kiwanis. A beer-and-billiard joint. O-Town Ice Cream Shoppe. A tiny church here. A small-town library there. A barbecue dive. A classroom. A smelly gymnasium, filled with sweaty kids.

After I spoke, students handed me stacks of handmade cards.

One card read: “Dear Sean, I don’t have a mom and dad… Can we be friends?”

Like I said, humbling.

And letters. People send letters. Miss Zora, Mister John Lee, Mister Danny, Miss Sandra, Miss Louisiana. Eloise, Sarah Lee, Anne, Wanda, Jo Lynn, Rachel, and Myrick (I like that name).

I have met God’s own exceptional humans. I shook hands with a man who marched with Doctor King. And Kathryn Tucker Windham’s daughter wrote me last week—I can die a happy man. And I hugged Michelle Irvin’s neck.

I’ve been fortunate enough to sit in nursing homes and hear stories about men who endured droughts, wars, boll weevils, malaria, and dire poverty.

I’ve seen the Kowaliga cabin. I’ve been shipwrecked in Lake Martin. I once ate entire family-sized box of crackers.

And right now, this average nobody is on his way to do what I suppose he does now; meet a room of folks and tell stories.

If only Daddy could see me now.

I’m nothing. A high-school dropout, a blue-collar flunky, a bar musician, a fatherless first-baseman, a newspaper carrier, a landscaper, a teenage line-cook, a son, a brother.

Today, I don’t know what I am. But I guess, what I’m trying to say is:

You’ve changed my life.

59 comments

  1. Catherine - August 8, 2017 12:02 pm

    But it is you, Sean, who listens to our stories and tells them to the world in a way we never could. Thank you and thank God for giving you this gift.

    Reply
  2. Deborah Bundy - August 8, 2017 12:02 pm

    And, you are awakening me. Thank you for being so open and honest about feelings.

    Reply
  3. Ruth Otwell - August 8, 2017 12:07 pm

    I agree with Catherine and Deborah above. You are one of us – we feel like we know you.
    Thank YOU.

    Reply
  4. Jenni - August 8, 2017 12:12 pm

    You and your words have changed all of our lives too!

    Reply
  5. Marisa Franca @ All Our Way - August 8, 2017 12:20 pm

    Forgive me, Sean, I’m not the storyteller you are. But your tale reminded me that August 10 is the Freast of San Lorenzo. Lorenzo was put to death for something he did — he was ordered to bring the riches of the church to the prefect. He did. He brought the lame, the blind, the young, the old to the prefect. San Lorenzo said, “These are the riches of the church.” This was really a condensed story!! But it’s what you do. You bring us everyday people who are human and children of God. You are so much more than what you say you are. Thank you for your stories and for taking the time to share your experiences.

    Reply
  6. Connie - August 8, 2017 12:24 pm

    In just a couple of months, you’re going to be in my small town, speaking to another group of small town people. I can’t wait. I look forward to reading you every day, but actually hearing you? Maybe meeting you? Thank you for taking the time to talk to people and tell their stories. You touch something in all of us.

    Reply
  7. Jan Hammac - August 8, 2017 12:27 pm

    Sean, Sean, Sean. You’re a blessing, that who you are. God picked up all the broken pieces of yourself and made you an adorable blessing.

    Reply
  8. Bobbie Lemons Lovell - August 8, 2017 12:35 pm

    If only everyone were as truthful as you, we would all be peaceful. Owning our prediciments. Congratulations. It took me many years longer than you, and it is so liberating.
    Bless you.

    Reply
  9. Margaret Platt - August 8, 2017 12:42 pm

    You are an American, Sean, and blessed to be so. Or better yet, a humble American. I wish there were more like you.

    Reply
  10. Linda - August 8, 2017 12:42 pm

    Do you know this song? Here is the chorus:

    Oh, yes, oh yes, I’m a child of the King
    His royal blood now flows in my veins.
    And I who was wretched and poor now can sing
    Praise God, praise God, I’m a child of the King.

    Reply
  11. Trudy :) - August 8, 2017 12:53 pm

    Dear, dear Sean. I, too, have met many people in my life. People from all walks of life, from all economic levels, and from all educational levels. Each one has given me another jewel in my crown of life. Each one has given me riches which I can’t hold in my hand, but held in the best place……my heart and memory. You give this to others. You are a treasure, a precious jewel in others’ crowns of life. Thank you.

    Reply
  12. Bobbie - August 8, 2017 1:01 pm

    You add something special to our lives…thank YOU!

    Reply
  13. Candy Clark - August 8, 2017 1:17 pm

    Thank you Sean, that is a wonderful compliment! Isn’t that what life is about, truly, helping each other find our purpose? It’s a great life if we get out of our own way and help others! Keep up the wonderful stories, this IS your purpose and gift. I’m grateful for you!

    Reply
  14. Theresa j Daniel - August 8, 2017 1:33 pm

    Beautiful! So very true!

    Reply
  15. Carol - August 8, 2017 1:34 pm

    Sean, I am a retired journalist — an editor for 35-plus years at a large newspaper. Yours is one of the only blogs that has ever captured me. I read every one of your “stories” and I appreciate them all. Thank you.

    Reply
    • Buck Godwin - August 9, 2017 7:55 pm

      That’s quite an endorsement Sean.

      Reply
  16. Marty from Alabama - August 8, 2017 1:34 pm

    YOU, my friend, have changed lives. You have a heart for the lesser folks and that makes you far and beyond the “other” people. Just keep writing, speaking and being Sean. God bless you.

    Reply
  17. Linda - August 8, 2017 1:55 pm

    Sean if everyone could see the the depth of the world as you see it what a wonderful world it would be! Your stories bless me everyday

    Reply
  18. Jack Quanstrum - August 8, 2017 1:58 pm

    I heard that! God is marvelous as He does good works through all of us no matter what our circumstances. I have experienced it many, many times. He does not grow weary in doing good through us. I thank God this morning for all those you write about and yourself who writes about others and speaks to them!

    Reply
  19. Ellen Brooks - August 8, 2017 2:06 pm

    And you have changed our lives. You have a gift, Sean! You are precious
    and we love you!!!

    Reply
  20. Pam Norwood - August 8, 2017 2:36 pm

    God is using you to change lives. Always remember that. Keep on keeping on, we’re behind you!

    Reply
  21. Jan - August 8, 2017 2:38 pm

    Right back at you, Sean! You have changed my life and many others I am sure. Your vision is clear and your ability to cut to the heart of the matter is unmatched plus you speak my language … Southern and straight from the heart! Thank you!

    Reply
  22. Elaine - August 8, 2017 2:57 pm

    Every morning you are on my front porch with me as I read my Bible, sip my coffee, and read your morning offering. Some days I share your story by email with my sons or girlfriends. Other days your words and God’s word inspire me to write a bit. Thank you for putting our Southern life on paper. You have helped me appreciate the richness of my Alabama roots. Please let us know if you are ever speaking in NE Alabama. You have lots of fans here, too.

    Reply
  23. Cathi Russell - August 8, 2017 3:13 pm

    I’m behind schedule and you just put me behinder…that’s the ugly cry. Have a terrific day meeting more of God’s people. ❤

    Reply
  24. Katy - August 8, 2017 3:47 pm

    Sean, what you are is a blessing. I am blessed each day when reading your writings. Thank you –

    Reply
  25. Susan OReilly - August 8, 2017 4:03 pm

    Sean,
    You are someone very special. I look forward to your insights, everyday! I’ve told my friends and Dad about you!
    They all agree, and look forward to your stories.
    Please know that you are a carrier of hope and joy.
    Your life is making a difference in so many lives!
    Thank you, for sharing your gift!

    Reply
  26. Denise Ainsworth - August 8, 2017 4:11 pm

    If we have changed your life…….YOU HAVE ENRICHED OURS❤️

    Reply
  27. Gail Stewart - August 8, 2017 4:19 pm

    I love you. You save my life some days.

    Reply
  28. Maxine - August 8, 2017 4:35 pm

    Sean
    You are a blessing to your many readers, sharing your story and those of others who have no voice to the masses, one group at a time. You are a great example of God putting the broken pieces together into a new vessel carrying encouragement and hope to so many. I have smiled through many tears as I peruse your thoughts for the day.
    Thank your wife for being a good driver from me and all the others who enjoy what you write as you travel the byways.

    Reply
  29. Buck Godwin - August 8, 2017 4:35 pm

    Sean, I wonder how many lives YOU have changed.
    You’ve made a huge impact on mine, Brother!

    Reply
  30. Lynda Richards - August 8, 2017 4:50 pm

    You are amazing, Sean. I look forward to reading your material everyday. Yes, you have come a long way from the the description you give yourself. You have a gift. You paint pictures with words and I love it. I grew up in the south, but no longer live there and some of your material mentally places me there on a great vacation of the mind. Love it.

    Reply
  31. Jill Shaver - August 8, 2017 5:00 pm

    You have changed our lives in the best of ways! You are loved by all of us! Jill

    Reply
  32. Laura Young - August 8, 2017 5:41 pm

    Your daddy would be- No, he IS so proud of you!! You are so far from the “nothing” you say you are, that someone circling the Earth could not get to you. You are so much to so many people! You have touched the lives of so many people and you touch many of us every day! Saying thank you seems so inadequate- how do you repay someone who lifts you up every day? How do you show appreciation to someone you take for granted because you know you can trust them always to touch your heart and make you smile, or show you a part of life you might have thought didn’t exist anymore, or made you remember just how much you miss your daddy. But I will say it anyway- THANK YOU, SEAN!!

    Reply
  33. Catherine - August 8, 2017 5:44 pm

    We each have a special calling~you have found and answered yours. Our lives are better because you did~ I hope yours is as well, and that you have realized your worth…you are loved…

    Reply
  34. Drucie - August 8, 2017 5:51 pm

    And you’re getting better.

    Reply
  35. Jeannie - August 8, 2017 6:20 pm

    You ARE a fine man and wonderful writer! Your dad would be oh so proud!

    Reply
  36. Nancy - August 8, 2017 6:35 pm

    Oh my gosh!!! ( Said with much emphasis!) Words flow from you and make all of us better people just like that…

    Reply
  37. Rick Richardson - August 8, 2017 6:51 pm

    Everyone has an amazing story and it takes a storyteller to tell that story. The very best ones have lived the stories. They have lost parents, struggled in school and life, they have worked blue collar jobs, they have experienced life. You my friend are among the very best. Thank you.

    Reply
  38. Olivia - August 8, 2017 7:41 pm

    You are extraordinary!

    Your humility, your insight, your love have made you exceptional.

    Life is amazing, is it not?

    Reply
  39. Kelly Myer - August 8, 2017 8:33 pm

    ❤️❤️❤️ Before the foundation of the world, He knew you and and has great purpose for you.❤️❤️❤️
    I enjoy your short stories so very much!

    Reply
  40. Mary Lee - August 8, 2017 9:33 pm

    Love all of your stories…each and every story…yep love them.

    Reply
  41. Lynda - August 8, 2017 10:13 pm

    and I believe “reading your blog” also changes lives…you are truly blessed to be able to see some of the effects of your story-telling. Keep on talking!

    Reply
  42. June - August 8, 2017 11:51 pm

    Sean, Please do not ever say, “I am nothing” again. Everyone is a unique, special creation. You have overcome many challenges making you extra special. I understand what you mean. Your wording is just a little off.

    Reply
  43. Kathy Daum - August 9, 2017 12:25 am

    And you’ve changed ours.

    Reply
  44. Mary Crenshaw - August 9, 2017 12:29 am

    Please don’t ever stop writing, speaking or singing.

    Reply
  45. Perri Geaux Tigers Williamson - August 9, 2017 1:05 am

    You have THIS life because you were made by THAT one. And selfishly I am grateful–because mine is better for it. I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking that.

    Reply
  46. Jill - August 9, 2017 1:57 am

    You are far, far from nothing and a nobody!

    Reply
  47. Susan in Georgia - August 9, 2017 2:09 am

    WOWZA, yes, if only your Daddy could see you now! His shirt buttons would be poppin’ off with pride at how wonderful you have turned out, even against a whole buncha odds! Speaking for scads of your readers, I must say that we are proud to have made your acquaintance by way of your daily stories which make their way to our email Inboxes. You make my day, Sean ♡

    Reply
  48. Michael Hawke - August 9, 2017 2:41 am

    And you’ve changed mine and SO MANY others!

    Reply
  49. Laura Fryburg - August 9, 2017 4:35 am

    Keep on keeping on Sean!!!

    Reply
  50. Kathy Burgess - August 9, 2017 4:39 am

    And you, Sir, have changed all of ours. Thanks so much for that. Love you and your wife and doggie. Hugs to all.

    Reply
  51. Cindy - August 9, 2017 12:44 pm

    As a retired teacher….letting every teacher know that in that small child who may not have the ability to explain life….there is hope for everyone of them. You Sean, represent that hope!

    Reply
  52. Mari - August 9, 2017 9:22 pm

    I love what you say, how you think and what you feel.
    Please handle, with a bit of care, those fine empathetic emotions. We need you to keep us all straight, so please don’t burn out. ❤️

    Reply
  53. Mary Anne - August 9, 2017 10:18 pm

    Good job. As always. Keep on writing, Sean. You are a writer who touches your reader’s soul. What a gift. We love you and look forward to your stories every day.

    Reply
  54. Melodie - August 10, 2017 4:07 am

    You are very much to me, and I thank you. This is what you were chosen to do, and to change lives, and make one think, not of themselves, but of others. ♥

    Reply
    • Trudy :) - August 31, 2017 12:26 am

      I’d say, “A lot like you, Melodie; a lot like you.” ♫ ♫

      Reply
  55. Rose - August 10, 2017 2:27 pm

    Misfortunes which we experience makes us sensitive to the pain in others. You have used your own pain to recognize the need and longing in others and have elevated the observation to an art form which we can all appreciate. I, too, empathize with others but lack the ability to share it so beautifully. You are the master of words and are truly OUR Sean of the South!!

    Reply
  56. Lucretia - August 18, 2017 1:31 pm

    Thank you, Sean, you have given me back the true essence of life.

    Reply
  57. Pamela McEachern - August 30, 2017 9:10 pm

    Wow how did I miss this, you and your family are a blessing to so many. I think you may have achieved your destiny in this life, what a joy to hear your stories. It makes me feel a certain peace and thankfulness to have made your aquaintaince if only in your writings. Thank you Sean of the South.

    Reply

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