The Country

At the end of the night, my dog and I are walking to my truck. I am carrying several foil-covered plates they sent with me. My stomach is full.

This is an engagement party at the Cuthbert farm. There are country people here of every shape, accent, and denomination. Salt-of-the-earth people.

On the buffet line they have every home-cooked casserole you can imagine. Jugs of tea. Coolers of beer. Cheap wine. And a coonhound roaming free.

I recognize this hound. She came with me. And she’s supposed to be my date tonight.

The hound is following a boy who’s as tall as a longleaf pine. The boy is sixteen. Tallest thing at the party.

“Don’t know how he got so stinking tall,” says the boy’s daddy—a roofing man. “He was a normal-sized kid until last year. Then, BOOM. He was Michael Jordan.”

The kid is a baseball pitcher. He can pitch fastballs that shatter sound barriers.

“When he’s standing on that mound, he’s freaking awesome,” says old Dad.

I meet a forty-three-year-old woman, wearing a scarf around her bald head. She’s eating bacon-wrapped venison. The woman is on her last round of cancer treatment. She is aunt to the bride-to-be.

She says her disease was a blessing.

“A blessing?” I ask.

“People all came together for me. You can’t imagine the support these people give you when you’re sick.

“When this many people love on you, it makes you realize that life’s a gift.”

A gift.

They tell me this woman might not make it.

I meet Miss Bonnie—mid-eighties. She has reddish-white hair and smells like Youth Dew.

She is a passionate little thing.

“Back in the day,” she says. “My girlfriends and I wanted to march with Doctor King, but my Daddy forbid it. Told me it was too dangerous.

“Daddy was a good man. He ended up driving three old country preachers and their wives all the way to Selma for the march.”

I meet a ten-year-old. His name is Jake. He’s a novice welder. He takes lessons from his father after school.

“He’s getting pretty good,” says his father. “We weld small things, simple projects.”

A mailbox. A headboard. Iron wind chimes.

Jake’s father is teaching his son to weld because good welders make better money than some folks with MBA’s.

“I know guys who want their sons going to top-notch colleges,” he says. “Welding’s kinda the same thing. Best gift I can give my son is teach him to make a good living.”

At the end of the night, my dog and I are walking to my truck. I am carrying several foil-covered plates they sent with me. My stomach is full.

I have spent three hours with the salt of this earth, and I feel better for it. There’s a hound beside me. She’s ready for bed.

I dig in my pocket for my keys. I catch a glimpse of a six-foot-seven teenager, pitching a fastball toward his daddy—who holds a bat.

They’re standing in the empty field, the sun is setting.

The woman with the scarf on her head is watching them. She’s bundled in blankets, sitting on a truck bumper. She applauds each pitch.

My God. I see it.

I see it, and it’s downright magnificent. I’m sorry I don’t stop and pay attention to it more often.

Life is a gift.

And people are beautiful.

20 comments

  1. Naomi - November 12, 2017 8:34 am

    Yes, Salt-of-the-earth people are what makes life a gift. I am so glad I live among them. I worked with a lady from up north one time. Yes, I live in the south. When her husband died, we all started showing up with food of all descriptions. She later told me that it was the craziest thing she had every seen. She said she wasn’t hungry and there was no reason to show up with food. She had yet to recognize that she was being shown love and support by her neighbors. Years later, when my mother past away, here came this lady with some bacon and eggs, uncooked. She said she didn’t think I would be hungry, but I could cook it when I got hungry. I’m so thankful that our way of life is contagious. I went up north one time when my uncle died. He had been there for years. I was in shock when we got there and not a neighbor was there with food. His wife said that was normal there. I ran out and bought food for the crowd, all relatives. But it just wasn’t the same as the gifts of love as friends and neighbors shower you with food, love, and support, in all of life’s events. Now that is life!

    Reply
  2. theholtgirls - November 12, 2017 9:08 am

    I love the Psalm 34: 8 way of the South. O, taste and see that the Lord is good!
    Yes, Life is a gift and people are beautiful.

    Reply
    • ponder304 - November 12, 2017 11:06 am

      Amen, loving people is life! That is a gift! Debbie

      Reply
  3. Marisa Franca @ All Our Way - November 12, 2017 11:46 am

    Another beauty of an observation. Yes, indeed! Life is a gift and I’m going to treasure every day!!

    Reply
  4. Sheila Clark - November 12, 2017 12:50 pm

    Amen brother. I have been sick 9 years now, my digestive system started failing me which has left me with a few extra life suspending devices like a port a cath that feeds my heart saline 10 hours everyday and a diet that consists of puréed food and now 3rd stage kidney disease. Pain, nausea, fatigue, dehydration, sadness and fear are my daily burdens. But it is through my suffering I have truly felt God’s pure goodness. Sadly not everyone has a support system like the aunt in your story. I have my husband and 2 adult daughters ( 1 has special needs and the oldest also suffers from a debilitating illness ). We call ourselves “4 Family “ because it has always been just us 4 ( well, and our 1 bloodhound puppy named Tank , 2 Boston Terriers and 1 Cat, Thank the Lord for our critters). Sometimes I feel God takes our sufferings and uses them to show His love to those in the medical field. Without the support of family ( special needs daughter has had 28 surgeries and I have come close to losing my life a few times these last 4 years and we never had a family member visit ) .When doctors and nurses notice a patient or family with no support they tend to take notice and by us showing them kindness and understanding I think they see that no matter what we go through, we have peace. Doesn’t take a Hospital room full of people, flowers or balloons to cheer a person up….It takes a perfect understanding that God Is In Control. Love is key to surviving pain and suffering, Love for God and each other. We all have a story, we all need compassion….. showing others that through your own tears speaks volumes on God’s Grace…..

    Reply
    • Bellinda Davis - December 8, 2017 1:29 pm

      Sheila Clark, I don’t know you or anything about you, but, wow, what a testimony. Thank you for sharing. It really speaks to me because for the past two years I’ve been going through what I call a “faith journey.” First, a stroke; then a herniated disk and degenerative disk disease; and now since 10/31, I’ve found out I have coronary artery disease, congestive heart failure, and pulmonary fibrosis. It’s been a lot to deal with, but, like you, I’m trusting God. He has shown Himself to be my Provider, my Great Physician, and my Loving Father. He is the All-Sufficient One and He has been faithful to supply my needs. Thank you for sharing your testimony and faith in the Lord. It is very encouraging.

      Reply
  5. Connie - November 12, 2017 12:55 pm

    Another beautiful story to start my day. Thank you for not only seeing the beauty of life, but sharing it with us.

    Reply
  6. Mac Petty - November 12, 2017 12:57 pm

    Yes, life is a gift. But seeing it requires eyes wide open to the possibilities. Your writing is like a balm for tired eyes. Thank you!

    Reply
  7. Rachel Lindsey - November 12, 2017 1:43 pm

    Life is a gift

    Reply
  8. Deena - November 12, 2017 3:38 pm

    You remind me everyday to look more closely for the people and things around me that I often take for granted. .. our farming operation and home are not far from Cuthbert, sure wish I had known you were in the area…..

    Reply
  9. Jackie Darnell - November 12, 2017 3:58 pm

    As my family in NC & GA would say, “Son, ‘ats a good ‘un”. THANKS I used to know those folk!

    Reply
  10. Liz - November 12, 2017 4:31 pm

    EMILY: “Does anyone ever realize life while they live it…every, every minute?”

    STAGE MANAGER: “No. Saints and poets maybe…they do some.
    Thornton Wilder, Our Town

    And Sean of the South.

    Reply
  11. Mary - November 12, 2017 6:22 pm

    Oh my gosh, Sean, you outdo yourself every time! There are no words……YOU , have used them all!!!!!!!……mary

    Reply
  12. MJ - November 12, 2017 6:33 pm

    Wow! Another really, really good one:)

    Reply
  13. Pamela McEachern - November 12, 2017 8:48 pm

    In the South compassion for one another just comes as a natural blessing. I am proud to call myself Southern, it is my pride. Thank you Sean, this was another beautiful tribute to The Southern Way.
    Peace and Love from Birmingham

    Reply
  14. Marion - November 13, 2017 4:11 am

    I think I’m catching on to the “Life is a gift” idea! I like it! To be an encourager sounds like my cup of tea! Thank you.

    Reply
  15. Jmwmson - November 14, 2017 3:05 am

    I marvel at the fact that you can distinguish Youth Dew perfume! It was my signature fragrance, when I was in college. Your story makes me want to purchase some now…to remember and relive some of those great memories and experiences.

    Reply
  16. Patricia Gibson - November 15, 2017 1:32 am

    Amen!!

    Reply
  17. unkle kenny - November 15, 2017 6:10 pm

    The lady with the scarf who said she was blessed, now she knew more than me or you. She knows that she might not make it, she’s been blessed with thr gift of time. Time to thank, pray , visit wirh family and friends. To say her goodbyes. We all know too well the sting and emptyness of a life that ends abruptly. It could be an accidental or on purpose death. Questions that never get answered in this life. Loss that allways hurts us. But it does get easier …….I guess. uk

    Reply
  18. Diane Rinaldi - December 8, 2017 1:12 pm

    Gratitude – I believe it’s just underneath love as one of God’s greatest gifts. 💖

    Reply

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