A Little Takeout Food

“Buy you a beer?” said the elderly man at the restaurant bar beside me.

I was waiting on takeout food, and he was enjoying a frosty mug. We both wore surgical masks. He sat five feet away. One side of his face was scarred from some kind of serious burn. His skin was marbled and smooth, the color of a pink crayon.

Me? You wanna buy ME a beer?

“Yeah, you. I’ve read a few of your columns. Let me buy you a beer. That way we can talk.”

Okay, sure. Thank you.

“Don’t mention it. What’ll you have?”

Anything cold.

The bartender served me a tall glass and we touched our rims. The man’s hands were scarred, and underneath his burns was a face that looked happy.

“I got a bone to pick with you,” he said.

With me? Okay, why not? It’s your paycheck in my glass.

“You wrote once in your column that you loved everybody. Well, I wanna know if it’s B.S. You can’t love everyone, can you? Do you remember writing that?”

Yes, I recall writing that.

“So you mean to tell me you love crooked businessmen who destroy the earth and strip this world of everything good? You mean to say that you love history’s evil armies who invaded countries and killed others for no reason but lust for power?”

Well, uh, I guess I never…

“How about racists? People who, even though they have no reason to hate or degrade others, hate and degrade others? You love them? Or were you just writing words?”

I, uh…

“And what about ruthless dictators who murdered millions of men, women, and children simply because of their nationality or creed? Or how about murderers who kill families during home invasions? What about wife beaters? Politicians? People who hum obsessively?”

Well, you see, sir, I was just…

“How about the guy who breaks into your car and steals everything in it? Like your stereo, and your wife’s cell phone, and your laptop? You love him?”

That depends on the brand of cellphone…

“How about the boss who fired you? Someone who abuses animals? What about the guy who wrecks a stable marriage just because he thinks he’s entitled to have anyone’s wife he wants?”


“What about the woman who sets her own house on fire and tries to kill her husband while he’s asleep because she’s mentally ill and wants him out of the picture?”

Sir, I don’t…

“Do you really mean to tell me that you’re capable of loving EVERYONE? Is that what you’re actually saying?”

I’m sorry if I offended you. Really, I am.

“You didn’t offend me, I’m not upset. We’re just two guys talking. But man to man, I wanna know if it’s possible to love someone who messed up your life? Sure, it’s easy to love people behind a computer screen. But how about the person who tried to ruin you? Can you sit on that barstool and tell me you love all the haters?”

Maybe what I should’ve said…

“Can you really say that you love the godawful, the pathetic, the dishonest, the angry, the disgusting, the spite-fueled, the aggressive, the narcissistic, the cruel, the trust abusers, the people who lash out against you but feel no remorse?”


“You’re a guy just like me, you get angry just like I do. You have the same capacity for bitterness I have. We’re just bone and skin, right? How can anyone say they love everyone? How can that be true?”

The old man was absolutely right. I hung my head in moderate shame. He had backed me into a corner and reduced me into a puddle of idiocy.

As a writer, I throw around a lot of words. But maybe I don’t think about them enough. Maybe I let my mouth overload my assignment.

He went on, “So? How about it, son? Do you love everyone? Do you love horrible people? Do you love old fools at a bar who try to tick you off for no good reason?”

Well, sir. To be honest. Even though I fail miserably at backing up my own words, and even though I’m a hopeless mess inside and out. Yes. I meant that. I stand by what I wrote.

We sat in silence for a few seconds.

The bartender brought the man’s to-go food.

The old man paid his bill. Then he patted my back, winked at me and said, “I was hoping you would say that.”

He tipped the bartender and said to the young man, “Real love ain’t for wimps, is it?”

“No sir,” said the bartender. “It sure ain’t.”

We shook hands. The old man was smiling from ear to marbled ear. He told me he loved me and he seemed to mean it. Then he left.

After his car pulled away, the kid bartender arrived with my take-out food and said, “Hard to believe that old guy’s a minister, ain’t it?”

Thanks for the beer, Reverend.


  1. Annie - August 30, 2020 6:54 am

    I really enjoyed this 😊

  2. Tammy S. - August 30, 2020 6:58 am

    🍻🥤cheers to you both! And cheers to love! ❤️

  3. Christina - August 30, 2020 7:37 am

    Hardest thing to do sometimes but most powerful game changer

  4. Jan Potts - August 30, 2020 9:28 am

    A good thing to read in the middle of the night. Thank you!

  5. Barbara - August 30, 2020 10:04 am

    Wow! I didn’t see that ending coming! So glad you stood behind your words. God loves the sinner but not the sin. I’m thankful for that kind of love.❤️

  6. Jimmy Stewart - August 30, 2020 11:03 am

    Best column yet!!! Love Everybody Always!!! Thanks Sean. See you tomorrow. I’ve got to go put the finishing touches on my sermon.

  7. Mary Cissell - August 30, 2020 11:04 am

    Sean, this one made me really think about each category the Reverend named. At the end of my thinking, the answer was clear in my mind: yes, I do love each of them. I may not like their actions, but I love them as a person and a “child of God” just as I am one. Each category could be listed in a prayer and at the end of the category, the response could be “Lord have mercy”.

    Sean, thank you so much for your daily writing. I look forward to it each day. Then I keep them in a folder. That’s after I forward it to people I think would enjoy it. Thanks again.

  8. Pondcrane - August 30, 2020 11:39 am

    I believe you do, it makes me glad:)

  9. nashrrg - August 30, 2020 11:56 am

    I can’t love them, but Christ in me does and helps me to do so.

  10. Beth Andrews - August 30, 2020 12:21 pm

    Best sermon I’ve ever heard.

  11. Rhonda - August 30, 2020 12:45 pm

    You just earned a badge. Passed the test and made an angel smile. Well done son, well done.

  12. Jan - August 30, 2020 1:11 pm

    What a thought provoking and soul stirring message you and the pastor presented! One of the hardest things in the world is to love those named but it is what God calls us to do. Only with God’s help …

  13. Ann - August 30, 2020 1:56 pm

    Excellent…thought provoking!

  14. Phil (Brown Marlin) - August 30, 2020 2:15 pm

    And that Reverend knows the one who loves us all and died for our sins. I believe you do, too, Sean.

  15. Gina Ireland - August 30, 2020 2:16 pm

    Love never fails!

  16. Ja ice carlile - August 30, 2020 2:44 pm

    Beautiful story.

  17. David P B Feder - August 30, 2020 2:59 pm

    Now THAT’S what I mean about “powerful writing!” (Ask your wife.)

  18. Christopher Spencer - August 30, 2020 3:16 pm

    Love for Enemies

    27 “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,

    28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.

    29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them.

    30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.

    31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.

    32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them.

    33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that.

    34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full.

    35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.

    36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.


    • Matt Ovaska - September 15, 2023 1:43 pm

      I attended a bible study with a former bar room brawler from Detroit. He said, “If you hit me on the cheek, I will turn the other cheek. If you make the mistake of hitting me on the other cheek. I gotta tell you, I just run out of cheeks.
      I love to tell Presbyterian ladies that when we get to heaven, I’ll introduce you to the “Son of Sam”
      who has been doing bible studies for years with inmates in Attica prison. They look at me in shock, and reply. Oh, he can’t be there.”

  19. allisvant - August 30, 2020 3:38 pm

    Agree with nashrrg’s comment above.
    I know that I’m stating the obvious to most, but it helps to remember two things –
    Love is primarily not a feeling.
    Love is what you do for someone.

  20. Robert M Brenner - August 30, 2020 4:04 pm

    A story for the ages. Thanks for sharing this with your readers. That kind of love is hard to comprehend sometimes. We’ll let Jesus handle the people the Reverend named! 🎚❤️

  21. MAM - August 30, 2020 4:42 pm

    You just got a checkmark next to your name at the Heavenly gates for when your time comes. And we hope it’s a long time coming, because you give us very good lessons every day! Keep it up! I believe God is leading your words.

  22. Linda Moon - August 30, 2020 5:06 pm

    My guy and I were just recently talking about love, in spite of…..well….just B.S. from some people at times and sometimes from our-own-selves, too. Bette Davis said, “Getting old ain’t for sissies”. We also discussed that. That old guy you met said, “Real love ain’t for wimps, is it?” Both of them are right. Preach on, Rev. Sean!

  23. TrixC - August 30, 2020 5:22 pm

    allisvant…and what you do for yourself!

  24. Chasity Davis Ritter - August 30, 2020 7:17 pm

    Awe, Sean….. thanks for sharing this one. Even this one got me leaky eyed. I’m glad you can love all of us. I’m glad For reverends that can tease and be like Jesus and still love and forgive. I don’t quite have it in me to love everyone out there myself fit I can still pray for the majority of them. And I’m glad you love me and write the things you do and I love you too.

  25. Sieglinde Langendorfer - August 30, 2020 7:29 pm

    The only way you would be able to love everybody is if you were filled to the very top with the LOVE of Jesus

  26. Donna M. Gulliver - August 30, 2020 7:42 pm

    In response to today’s column I was reminded of a quote I saw the other day….”Love everybody, God will sort them out anyway.”

  27. Gretchen Hitchcock - August 30, 2020 8:54 pm

    I loved this. It’s funny because our sermon at church was in forgiveness. So very privileged to read your columns every day. Well done!

  28. Sue Rhodus - August 30, 2020 9:14 pm

    doggoneit…just WOW !!!!!

  29. Robert Chiles - August 30, 2020 10:43 pm


  30. Pat McGilberry - August 31, 2020 12:33 am

    Love, love, love. Great article

  31. Steve Winfield [Lifer] - August 31, 2020 2:28 am

    It’s hard & God knows it. Probably why he talks about it so much.
    But I always try.

  32. Johnnie Blackburn - August 31, 2020 1:13 pm

    A sermon and a beer. You can’t beat that!

  33. maggierowe - August 31, 2020 6:40 pm

    Thanks for NOT being a wimp, Sean. The world is overpopulated with those as it is. And I say this as the wife of an old minister who, like you, says he loves everybody and actually means it too.

  34. Linda Moon - August 31, 2020 7:30 pm

    P.S. Today on my baby girl’s birthday, I’m thinking you took out food for the soul in this column from yesterday. You gave some to me on this happy remembrance of my first baby’s birth of 30 laborious hours. And because of a mother-to-be’s love, I wasn’t a wimp waiting for her arrival!

  35. Todd Lewis - September 1, 2020 5:36 am

    This why we have pastors.

  36. wuf - September 1, 2020 6:52 pm

    This is excellent.
    I’m a retired pastor and prison chaplain. People think of love as a happy feeling. In truth it is more work than many people are able to devote to it. Thanks for sharing this today.

  37. Pilgrim - September 20, 2020 4:46 pm

    Checking my email. Catching up on days I missed. Read this one. Hit me in my heart and my head. Wow!

  38. Peg - September 27, 2020 7:50 pm

    I can’t stop shaking my head in the affirmative…..made me do some deep thinking about people I’m not happy with or “think” I don’t care for because of their actions……….wouldn’t this old world be a whole lot different if we could all love everyone, as hard as that is. Thanks for your writings….they always touch my heart and mind.

    And….. I love Donna Gulliver’s comment above…….”Love everybody, God will sort them out anyway.”

  39. suzlcahill - January 9, 2021 2:32 pm

    I did NOT see that coming! Thank you, Sean. This was a much needed reminder for me today.


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