The Natural

She had labored speech and a nice smile. She explained that she would be stocking up on beer, buffalo nachos, Magic City Hotdogs, and burgers for her friends.

Birmingham, Alabama—a baseball game. My wife and I went to see the Barons play. It was a well-attended game.

I stood in the concession line for a forty-five-dollar beer. A girl in a wheelchair was ahead of me. She was a happy thing. Early twenties. Pretty.

Our line was long. But not like the line to the women’s bathroom. Ladies stood single-file, stretching clear back to Chatom.

The girl in the wheelchair turned toward me.

“You go ahead of me if you wanna,” she said. “I got a REAL big order.”

She had labored speech and a nice smile. She explained that she would be stocking up on beer, buffalo nachos, Magic City Hotdogs, and burgers for her friends.

I asked why her friends had chosen her to be the neighborhood pack mule.

“‘Cause I got a motor,” she said. “Check me out, I’m practically riding NASCAR.”

She demonstrated her motorized wheels, spinning in a complete circle.

Richard Petty, eat your heart out.

“Sure you don’t wanna cut in line?” she went on. “My order will take a while.”

“It’s only baseball,” said I.

So, we talked. I was hoping to learn some of her story. But that didn’t happen.

All I learned was her name, and that she has cerebral palsy.

Instead, she asked me questions. The more we talked, the more personal her questions.

And since I have my mother’s talkative genes, I talked. I told her about myself, about my mama, my wife, my coonhound. I told her about a rocky childhood, and a daddy who died too young.

I talked about my education—and lack thereof. I told her I spent the first three quarters of my existence as an aimless kid, working grunt jobs, playing music in bars.

She listened. Then, she fired strings of well-formulated follow-up questions.

The fact is, I’ve done a few interviews in my day. I’ve talked with grannies at church picnics, coaches at championships, ER nurses, burnt-out honky-tonk patrons.

A.A. facilitators, Vietnam veterans, EMT’s, immigrant children, and on one occasion I interviewed a tranquilized raccoon. Interviews are uphill battles.

Not for her. This girl was a natural.

When she got to the counter, she recited a food order that nearly short-circuited the cash register.

She pointed to me and told the cashier, “I’m buying whatever this guy wants.”

I declined her offer. She insisted.

I ordered a beer.

When her order was ready, I helped her carry things to her friends.

We came upon a small group. There were a few in wheelchairs. There was a boy with crutches, a girl with an oxygen tank, a kid with Down’s Syndrome.

She introduced me. I shook hands. I told them I’d better hurry to my seat or else my wife would call the Jefferson County swat team.

The girl pumped my hand and said, “Thanks for talking to me. Learning about other people really grounds me, you know? It helps me not feel so sorry for myself. Maybe I’ll write about you in my blog.”

Yes ma’am.

Maybe I’ll do the same thing, Mila.

Thanks for the beer.

16 comments

  1. Tara Dalton - July 15, 2017 2:07 pm

    Love this .. everyone has value.

    Reply
  2. Cynthia Perfater - July 15, 2017 2:34 pm

    Bless you Sean. Your stories are something I look forward to everyday. Keep them coming!

    Reply
  3. Linda acres - July 15, 2017 2:45 pm

    Stunning!

    Reply
  4. Mimi Chapman - July 15, 2017 3:14 pm

    Thanks Sean…yours is my favorite “column”…I send these to my husband and they sometimes make him cry…

    Reply
  5. Mark Elder - July 15, 2017 3:37 pm

    And folks, that’s the way reverence for life is done.

    Reply
  6. Putnam Norbert - July 15, 2017 3:54 pm

    Beautiful article Sean! Made me proud !!!! Keep up the good work. Np

    Reply
  7. Sandra Marrar - July 15, 2017 4:30 pm

    Sweet!

    Reply
  8. Marty from Alabama - July 15, 2017 4:38 pm

    Happy muggy Alabama weather, Sean. And thank you for another terrific article, blog or whatever you choose to call it. I really envy your ability to meet all these unique people and let us know them through you. Keep talking and writing – it’s a daily treat for me.

    Reply
  9. Barbara Nelle Ewell - July 15, 2017 5:08 pm

    Did Mila tell you how to get to her blog? Would she care if you shared? I’m thinking that her thoughts would go well with yours in the mornings.

    Reply
  10. Perri Geaux Tigers Williamson - July 15, 2017 5:28 pm

    Ha, ha, ha. I LOVE this so much–for so many reasons. As always, thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  11. Carolyn Huggins - July 15, 2017 5:30 pm

    Oh, wow………..that sure put things in perspective for me on this lonely Saturday morning, while I was the only one attending my “Pity party!” Thank you for sharing, Sean!

    Reply
  12. Peg - July 15, 2017 8:21 pm

    Sean, Each day I read two emails I receive daily: the Upper Room Devotional and yours. Some days, it is hard to say which one touches my heart and soul more. Thank you so much! What a gift you have!

    Reply
  13. Helen Maloy - July 16, 2017 2:04 am

    Can’t tell you how much I enjoy your columns. I read you in the Calhoun-Liberty Journal. Always good for a laugh or a cry.

    Reply
  14. Jack Quanstrum - July 16, 2017 3:56 am

    Sweet, tender story. Thank you Sean for sharing it. It has humbled me. It has definitely given me food for thought. Sean I admire your willingness to be part of life in a positive way no matter what shape or form. Christ like behavoir. Amazing similarities.

    Reply
  15. sherry k. - July 17, 2017 3:48 pm

    One of your best.

    Reply
  16. Janet Mary Lee - July 28, 2017 6:02 am

    Two beautiful people. I have a feeling they both have lots of beautiful friends. You know the good kind. Lots of heart and lots of love! (Kiss Ellie May for me!!)

    Reply

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