My wife and I are at a blueberry farm located in the middle of nowhere. My wife wears a sunhat. I am wearing a third-degree sunburn.

There are acres of blueberries stretching toward the treeline. The bushes are loaded with beautiful purple berries that are—this is a well-known fact—explosively high in fiber.

Blueberries are a big part of life in South Alabama. My wife is from Brewton, the “Blueberry Capital of Alabama.” It’s your quintessential small town, with a cute mainstreet, historic homes, and 1,228 nearby churches.

Brewton is the kind of place that dedicates entire holidays to the humble blueberry. They have the Alabama Blueberry Festival, complete with a car show, arts and crafts, and music. And of course they have the Blueberry Drop. The Blueberry Drop is a New Year’s Eve event where instead of dropping a big ball like they do in Times Square, they drop a giant blueberry behind the Church’s Chicken.

When I first met my wife, we spent a lot of time picking blueberries. One summer,

a local farmer got several volunteers from our little church to pick blueberries for a three-day weekend. I was an adult “chaperone” for the youth group blueberry squad.

Now, let me say upfront that the last thing you want to do is chaperone a youth group for a weekend in rural Alabama. It’s misery.

When youth-group kids reach a certain age, all they do is run around pinching each other’s hindparts and smuggling unfiltered Camels. And at night—at least this was true for the boys—they would sit around a campfire and hold scientific discussions about human anatomy using slang words only.

I remember when the farmer warned the youth group that blueberries were a VERY high-fiber fruit, and not to eat too many of them. The boys ignored this and ate their weight in blueberries. The next morning, these boys spent a lot of private time in the…

There was a lot of excitement in the admissions department yesterday morning. It was a big day. All the angels were getting their wings ruffled over a big-time celebrity who was checking in.

“Did you hear?” said one angel to another. “Today’s the day! He’s coming!”

“Who’s coming?”

So the angel pulled out the logbook and pointed to the photograph of a small 10-year-old boy. The boy who spent his last days in the hospital. The boy whose family prayed until the bitter end. The boy who never, not even once, lost heart. Not even in the face of his leukemia.

The angels were pulling out all the stops for today’s big party. The beautification committee was hanging streamers and a large banner over the abalone gates that read “Welcome Home!”

The snack committee brought so much food they ran out of paper plates. The fireworks crew prepared for a huge display.

The first spectators started arriving early. Among them were people like Elvis, George Washington Carver, William Franklin Graham, Lewis and Clark, Vincent van Gough,

Samuel Langhorne Clemens, Leonardo da Vinci, and Babe Ruth. And there were many others who you’ve never heard of.

There is no rank of importance in this place. Everyone is the same. It’s hard to explain this concept to Earth people. One of the most popular saints up here, for instance, is an elderly man who used to be a janitor in a Soviet orphanage. You’ve never heard of him, but he’s a big deal.

So everyone gathered at the gates. Not just people, but animals, too. Zebras, lions, sheep, antelope, penguins, and squirrels.

And the all-star band was warming up. Vivaldi played fiddle, Chopin was on keyboard, Miles Davis played flugelhorn, Lawrence Welk was conducting.

You could hear the rustle of wings when the angels crowded the gates. They sounded like a bunch of excited chickens. Angels love new arrivals.

The reception was…

Zach and Kelly got married yesterday. They did the ceremony outdoors. Zach says the pollen was pretty bad.

The allergies have been rough in my area, too. I thought pollen season was finished, but there were huge yellow quilts of the stuff floating through the air, dusting my car, killing innocent woodland creatures, inducing mild hallucinations.

The first thing that happens to me during pollen season is that my right ear gets clogged and I am rendered almost completely deaf and can’t hear when my wife tells me to mow the lawn.

Anyway, Zach and Kelly have been together for five years. They have done everything together. From riding go-carts and eating nachos, to travelling through Europe and eating tapas in Spain. But they have never taken the plunge into holy matrimony.

Now, I know all you women out there are probably shaking your heads, saying, “Five years? Geez, Kelly. That’s way too long to wait.”

But all you men out there are nodding and sincerely thinking to yourselves: “What are tapas?”

Zach explains his position.

“I guess I just didn’t want to give up my independent lifestyle and get married, maybe that was it.”

Maybe. Either way, Kelly never pushed him, even though her mother recommended putting on the pressure. Kelly simply waited and said to herself, “When he’s ready, he’s ready.”

This is exceptional on Kelly’s part. I am thinking here of my friend, Bradley, a musician who wasn’t sure if he wanted to get married until one day his girlfriend of 11 years tried to strangle him with his guitar strap until he proposed.

Zach says he doesn’t know why he didn’t propose. Maybe it was because his father left his mother and brother when he was still in the womb.

“I just never saw a good example of two married people being happy,” says Zach.

Kelly couldn’t have been any more perfect for him. A few…

You know what I wish? I wish there were free pancakes for the whole world. Call me a dreamer, but I believe that pancakes slathered in butter and syrup are one of the secrets to a rich and happy life.

Will that sugar rot our teeth? Yes. Will the calories go straight to our butts? You bet. But we will be happy.

Growing up, whenever my mother made pancakes, you just knew it was going to be a good day. Not even hell itself can stand in the way of a man who’s had his pancakes.

A long time ago, I used to volunteer at a little church that always held pancake breakfasts for the homeless, underprivileged, and lonely. Several of us volunteers would spend a week stapling flyers to hundreds of telephone poles.

The flyers’ message was simple: “FREE PANCAKES!”

The fellowship hall would be slammed with children, single mothers, old men with stained clothes, young men on their way to the work, old women who lived by themselves, all holding

paper plates. It was as though everyone from 18 counties had come to have fun, eat pancakes, and get some good old-fashioned type-two diabetes.

So that’s what I wish. During the midst of the troubled world we’re living in, I wish everyone could have pancakes and forget about their problems for a while.

Since I’m on a roll with my wishing, I also wish there were more old movies on television. Have you ever wondered where all the old-time movies went? Oh, sure, we have plenty of modern movies and modern actors who cant seem to keep their clothes on for two consecutive scenes.

But where are Charlie Chaplain and Buster Keaton? Come back John Wayne and Randolph Scott. I miss you Katherine Hepburn.

There’s something else I wish, too. I wish Louis Armstrong were played on more stereos. If for no other reason than because his music…

An average suburban neighborhood in Texas. The kind of place with plain, older homes that look like they were thrown together with Elmer’s glue and popsicle sticks.

When Gerald moved in about 30 years ago, he began feeding stray cats. That’s sort of how this story begins.

Feeding animals was sort of an occupational habit for the old man. He worked as a veterinary assistant for most of his adult life until he retired.

He had a special place in his heart for strays. And you know how stray lovers are. Their mission in this world is to seek out new animal life and to snip its private parts with surgical tools.

Gerald became the neighborhood cat whisperer. That’s how most children looked at him.

“There musta been twenty or thirty cats on his porch when I was growing up,” says one former kid. “It was crazy.”

Gerald gave the cats a free, all-you-can eat buffet on his front stoop. And it wasn’t just hardtack, it was canned designer cat food. He spoiled them.


would spend his time with these cats. He would talk sweetly to them until they trusted him enough to let him hold them. Then, once he’d befriended them, he would feed them, pamper them, and have their reproductive organs disconnected by a doctor wielding a No. 3 scalpel.

But the cats didn’t hold this against him. After all, Gerald was their friend. Cats know people. A cat is smarter than some realize. A cat is not blindly loyal like a dog.

If you scold a dog, he’ll sulk, tuck his tail, and whimper. If you so much as pet a cat’s fur the wrong direction he’ll vomit in your shoes and set fire to the house.

Neighborhood kids came to see Gerald all the time. Sometimes, just to hang out on his porch with the cats. If you’ve ever seen a mass of cats intertwined…

I have an email here from Matt in Texas. Matt writes:

“I’m confused about my future even though I thought I had school all figured out before the virus happened.

“I missed my graduation because of the pandemic and I’m thinking of dropping out altogether now because I don’t even know what I want to do. Maybe you can help me figure it out? When you were young, what did you want to be when you grew up?”

Matt. This is not an easy question. I have wanted to “be” many different things in life. When I was a boy I wished I were big. That’s pretty much what all little kids want. I just wanted to be like my grandfather. He was a big, tall man that neighborhood dogs used to always follow around.

And I wanted to do what big people did: Play fast-pitch baseball, drive cars, pay bills, outrun IRS attack dogs.

When I got a little older I wanted to have a skill. During the middle-school years everyone

is figuring out who they are. Some kids show promise as artists, writers, or athletes. Others are math-wizzes and grow up to be billionaires.

Me? I never figured it out. Besides, even though I didn’t realize it, all I really wanted was to fit in. This is a basic need young people have, just like the need to laugh, or the need to rupture their own ear drums with loud music. There is no worse suffering than loneliness.

So I just wanted to blend. I wanted to wear the same Chuck Taylors everyone else wore. I wanted the team captain to choose me for touch football.

After my father died, when I was a boy, my aspirations went out the window. All I wanted to be was safe. Plain and simple. I just wanted to feel secure and not be afraid of life.

But people grow up. Over…


In my house we are still recovering from COVID-19, I am still getting over the tail end, but am feeling much better now. My wife has been great the whole way through this badness by taking care of us all. We are originally from Mississippi, but I live in Pennsylvania now.

Can you cheer me up today?


I have here a story from a man who I will call Pete. Pete wrote me a letter describing a unique wedding toast he received in 1982.

The story begins when Pete was making an all-night road trip from Fort Walton Beach, Florida, to Charleston, South Carolina. He was on his way to get married. His fiance’s family lived in Charleston.

They throw fancy weddings in Charleston. They don’t cut corners like we do here in the Florida Panhandle. At my cousin’s Florida wedding, for instance, the bride and groom wore matching camouflage and cut their wedding cake with a Buck knife.

But in Charleston they do things differently. I have visited Charleston, and frankly,

I felt underdressed.

So Pete was on his way north. He would be arriving the day before his wedding. No sooner had he gotten out onto I-10 than he saw a man hitchhiking on the shoulder.

Pete faced an immediate crisis of conscience when he saw the hitchhiker. On the one hand, Pete was raised Methodist, and Methodists are required by federal law to pick up hitchhikers. On the other hand, Pete was in a hurry.

He pulled over. It was an old man with weathered skin and rags for clothes. Pete asked where he was going.

The old man said, “Don’t care. Where’re you headed?”

“South Carolina.”

The old man reached into his pocket and gave Pete all the cash he had, which wasn’t much. The guy said, “South Carolina’s good with me.”

Now, if the story stopped here, it would…