A Long Letter

Hello, Melanie,

In your recent letter to me, you told me most of your life story. Thank you for that. I read the whole thing. All 792 pages.

You mentioned that you were “screwed up” more than a few times. I won’t cite examples because your words to me are private, but I had to write you back.

I know your parents’ divorce has been hard. And I know you’ve been going through a lot, getting ready for college.

But I don’t think you’re screwed up. Actually, I think you’re swell. I would even add that you’re pretty cool. Also, your letter weighed 42 pounds.

If you ask me, being “screwed up” is just a matter of perception. Have you ever seen 1,000 identical store bought tomatoes? They’re completely uniform, they have no personality, and they taste like red clay dirt.

But homegrown tomatoes? They’re misshapen, multi-colored, lopsided, and totally screwed up. And everyone knows lopsided tomatoes taste like heaven.

People are the same way. We humans are complex, uniquely shaped biological beings, capable of incredible feelings, empathy, wit, kindness, and unbelievable body odor.

Here’s something. In only a few millionths of a second, a human brain can compute the trajectory and velocity of a speeding softball aimed at its face.

I bring this up because you mentioned that you played first base on your softball team in your letter. I think on page 349.

Well, it only takes an average ballplayer’s brain five gazillionths of a millisecond to send electrical impulses to his or her arm to make that important catch.

That’s not screwed up. That’s a scientific wonder.

Since we were talking about baseball, do you know what I think is interesting? This: who invented baseball? And I don’t mean which PERSON invented it. I’m talking in a big-picture kind of way.

Because here’s what I know. Baseball didn’t just appear out of nowhere. A flock of people formed this idea, reinvented it, honed it, nurtured it, and kept it going for well over a hundred years. Which means no singular person invented the game. A people group did.

The ironic thing is, American baseball became hugely popular during the American Civil War. Some think the war is what launched baseball’s fame.

Can you imagine a more screwed up time in history than the Civil War? I can’t. There were 618,222 people dying at the hands of their nextdoor neighbors. And soldiers were playing a kids’ game during their smoke breaks.

Soldiers from both sides got up games during lulls between fighting. American boys, who would die in combat found a semblance of fun during their off-time.

These were young men who marched upon bloodred battlefields, lived through hard times, survived in pup tents, crawled across valleys of dead bodies. And they were carrying hickory bats with them.

I once saw an antique photograph of several young soldiers at Fort Pulaski, in Savannah, Georgia. They were playing ball in the middle of the fort itself. During the throes of war. The year was 1862.

Why do I bring this up? After all, you didn’t write me to talk about sports. I tell you this because I do not believe baseball is a human invention. Neither are lopsided tomatoes. And neither are young women who write letters longer than doctoral dissertations.

So if these things aren’t human inventions, what are they? The answer is I don’t know. All I know is that they aren’t screwed up. Screwed up things don’t exist. The term is flawed.

Don’t get me wrong, the human race is far from perfect, and we have problems. But these flaws are not wasted. In fact, imperfections lead to some of nature’s more perfect moments.

Like a 12-year-old orphan boy in Bangladesh who finds a blind infant girl on the steps of a temple. The same boy who kept the girl, fed her, and raised her as his own daughter. Even though he had not hit puberty.

Or how about Erin, in Tennessee? She was horribly abused by her stepfather. Years later, when her stepfather was on his deathbed with COVID-19, she was his sole caregiver until the end. She even forgave him. You think that’s screwed up?

Look at Yosemite National Park. Those big rocks were formed by exploding volcanoes, destructive floods, devastating ice ages, and natural disasters scary enough to cause veteran Weather Channel reporters to ruin their slacks.

What about the Appalachian mountains? Are they screwed up? They formed when land masses catastrophically collided like two continent-sized eighteen-wheelers. Can you honestly look at those mountains and say they are an ugly mistake?

What about the sun? You think that’s screwy? That old star has been on fire for ages, but nobody is calling the fire department. That titanic inferno is responsible for life, trees, birds, rivers, plants, animals, Nick Saban, etc.

And that’s the point. It’s not up to you to say what’s right or wrong with the world. You’re not qualified. Oak trees don’t all grow in straight lines. Oceans are wild. Rivers are crooked. Clouds are lumpy. And some young women will never know how beautiful they are.

Society may be a mess. The earth may be unruly. But screwed up? No. I don’t believe anything under heaven is that far gone, Melanie. Not as long as we have baseball.

And you.

And your 42-pound letter.


  1. TrixC - August 21, 2020 10:27 am

    Sean, I SO look forward to your daily posts. This one made me laugh out loud at times, swell with tears at others. Your writing style and honest “caring” with your replies is so very uplifting. Thanks for caring and sharing.

  2. Trilby Devine - August 21, 2020 12:31 pm

    This is a good one ❤️

  3. Kay Britton - August 21, 2020 12:55 pm

    Beautiful analogies. ❤️

  4. Jan - August 21, 2020 12:57 pm

    Another beauty! Thank you, Sean.

  5. Laurie Ulrich - August 21, 2020 1:15 pm

    I hope that your article today meant something special to Melanie–but even if not, it meant a lot to my perception of everything that’s going on in the world right now. My guess is that’s why you wrote it–not just for Melanie, but for all of us. Thank you.

  6. walter buehler - August 21, 2020 1:23 pm

    Beautiful, thank you!

  7. Hazel Barber - August 21, 2020 1:30 pm

    Keep writing Sean the world needs you!

  8. Lita - August 21, 2020 1:34 pm

    What TrixC said. Stay safe and well x

  9. Leigh Rutledge Bratina - August 21, 2020 1:35 pm

    I absolutely love and appreciate this!!!! I always love your perspective.

  10. cajuntiger74 - August 21, 2020 1:47 pm

    I have forgiven Him for Nick Saban. War Eagle to you from Bayou country, where the Corndogs roam.

  11. Sandi - August 21, 2020 2:01 pm

    This took my breath away, and then gave it back. Thank you.

  12. Lindy Lou - August 21, 2020 2:15 pm

    Oh, how I LOVE this! Thank you! 😍

  13. Dianne - August 21, 2020 2:51 pm

    Thank you for your words of encouragement to this young woman. She’s in a dark place right now, and needs the encouragement you gave her. She just needs some building up and an attitude adjustment, and then she’ll be just fine and enjoying her college days.

  14. fredhandbag - August 21, 2020 4:52 pm

    Wow – thanks so much for this encouragement – we are all jacked up and that’s okay

  15. Linda Moon - August 21, 2020 5:10 pm

    I’m glad Melanie wrote a heavy letter to you. I bet it took a lot of weight off her to do that. Instead of tossing her letter aside, you helped her carry her burden. Next time, maybe all the ‘Melanies’ who mail actual letters to you will use fewer words, resulting in fewer pages for you to read. In the meantime, we readers will continue to read the 2,345,402 words you promised to us. With my daily additions, the word-count is now 2,345,415. Thank you for your time, your perceptions, and for being you. You’re swell, Sean.

  16. Carolyn Missildine - August 21, 2020 7:32 pm

    I greatly enjoy your writing. Quotes from family and friends and tales of by gone days ate the best! They are the South l know.

  17. Steve Watkins - August 22, 2020 12:56 am

    And it is all perfect.

  18. eliz - August 22, 2020 1:47 am

    Wow, wish someone had told me this a long time ago. Thank you!

  19. Lin - August 22, 2020 12:21 pm


  20. Tammy O'Connor - August 22, 2020 1:00 pm

    Your writing makes us want to write you.
    Its amazing really, how your honesty and transparency allows us to know you – and that makes us want go be known too.
    I started a long letter to you while I was reading ” Will the Circle Be Unbroken”. I never finished it because I figured you got a million of them.
    Thanks for being you Sean.

  21. Livy Abele - August 23, 2020 2:26 am

    Love to Melanie… wonderful wisdom you have shared!!!

  22. MIssLaRue - August 23, 2020 3:00 pm

    Amazing words for a girl who needed them. Thanks Sean!

  23. Amy - August 24, 2020 1:51 pm

    Thank you for this beautiful essay. This old English teacher loves watching how your writing talent has grown. You had a gift of encouragement.

  24. Mary - September 1, 2020 6:14 pm

    Okay, Sean. You’ve finally gone and done it. You’ve written something so offensive to me, I have to respond. NO WAY, NO HOW does a store bought tomato taste like “red clay dirt”. All of us who live with Georgia red clay under our feet (even though we are slightly below the border) know it does not taste as bad as store-bought tomatoes! Yes, there is a bit of gritty-ness, but nothing like the pink styrofoam that some people call tomatoes that they bring home from the store. In the future, please refrain from using such offensive language. Oh, and I love you anyway.


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