A Phone Interview

I dial the number. The phone is ringing. It keeps ringing. And ringing. Click. A woman answers. It’s a youngish voice. We exchange greetings.

“Am I too late?” I ask.

“Nope, right on time, Miller is right here, waiting for you with his pen and notepad ready.”

I’ll admit it upfront. I’m not having the greatest day today. I didn’t sleep well last night. Also, we ran out of coffee and had only decaf in the house. That’s what I’m drinking now. Worthless decaf.

But I promised a young man I’d do a phone interview for his homeschool assignment. So there you are.

I don’t know anything about him, but his email seemed so sincere.

I hear the sound of a little kid breathing on the phone. “Hello?”

“Hi, Miller. Sorry I’m a little late calling, I got tied up this morning.”

“You did? Doing what?”

“Well, if you must know, I was walking my dog and she ate something funky. And then I discovered that all we had was decaf. Not the greatest day. It’s a long story. Do you have a dog, Miller?”

“Well, no, but my grandma has a cat, Jilly Billy, we named her that ‘cause we don’t know if she’s a boy or a girl.” Then the kid changes gears. “I’m gonna record this interview with your permission. But before we start, I just wanna say thank you.”

“For what?”

“For, I dunno, just talking to me.”

Next, I hear the sound of a soda can cracking open. And the noise of a satisfying slurp.

“Let’s begin,” says Miller.

“Fire away.”

“What’s it like to be a writer?”

This is probably not a good day to answer this question. I’m a little too decaffeinated. Also lately I’ve been a rollercoaster of emotions when I think of how turbulent the world is right now. “It’s great.”

I hear the noise of a young person scribbling notes and saying under his breath, “It’s… Great…”

“Thank you,” he says. “Now can you tell me what your inspiration is?”

Inspiration? Hoo, boy. This is definitely not my day. For one thing, I know what my inspiration is, I looked for it all morning and couldn’t find it in the Folgers can. But truthfully, sometimes recently I’ve felt very uninspired. COVID-19 has been a psychological disaster.

“My inspiration?” I say. “You mean what motivates me?”

“Yes, please.”

I can’t quite come up with an answer. This is just not my finest hour. So I say, “Gee, I’m not sure, Miller. What about you, what motivates you?”

He pauses. “Oh, lots of stuff. But this is about you.”

So I am desperately trying to rally some thoughts for Little Mister Sunshine, but I discover that, while talking about motivation, today I have none.

He takes another hearty slurp of his beverage. This noise almost ruptures my eardrum.

“Are you drinking Coke?” I ask.

“No. Can’t have that.”

“Your mom won’t let you?”

“Well, all the treatment I’m taking gave me diabetes, can’t eat sweet things anymore because they’ll make things bad, and I don’t have a strong immune system.”


He fires his next question: “How have you handled adversity in your life?”

My life? The short answer is: obviously, not very well. Today I was forced to drink decaf and my world started to fall apart. This kid is on insulin because of some kind of “treatment.” I’m not a good example.

So I say, “How do YOU handle adversity?”

“Me? This interview’s about you.”

“Yeah, well, you seem like an interesting person.” I remove a pad and paper from my desk drawer.

“Well,” he begins. “I handle it by just saying to myself, ‘Miller, it’s not that bad.’”

I make a note. Then I wait for the rest of the story. But this is all there is.

“That’s it?” I say. “You just say, ‘It’s not that bad,’ and, boom, everything goes away?”

He slurps. “No, nothing goes away. Nothing ever goes away, but I get through it. Like the one time when they all thought I was gonna die.”

I wait for more. But he is not elaborating.

“You almost died?”

“Mmm hmmm.”


I ask, “Do you ever get mad about… Things?”

“About what? My cancer?”

There it is.

“No. I don’t get mad. My friends understand it, they text me and say they’re praying for me. And my mom helps me.”

I scribble something. “And… My… Mom… Helps… Me…”

He slurps again. This is followed by a refreshed exhalation. He says, “Can we do YOUR interview now?”


“How old are you, Mister Sean?”

But I can’t answer it. Not yet. “Miller, I just have one more teensy little question.”

Le sigh.

I say, “You seem so happy. Mind if I ask how you stay so happy after all you’re going through?”

“Well, I just started exercising with my mom, they say that helps since I can’t play with my friends ‘cause of the virus. I try to, just, I dunno, have fun, even if I’m doing dishes and I help Mom vacuum and stuff.”

“Are you upbeat all the time? Do you ever get sad? Isn’t life kinda hard?”

“Yes. It’s hard.”

“But you get through it?”

He laughs. “Well, yeah, I’m not dead.”

There is quiet on the other end of the line, interrupted by occasional slurping from an exceptional child who picked the wrong guy to interview.

“Miller. Thank you.”

“For what?”

“For, I dunno, just talking to me.”

This decaf doesn’t taste so bad anymore.


  1. Steve Johnson - August 18, 2020 6:45 am

    This was all about perspective. Whenever I start feeling down I tell myself there’s others that are struggling with much larger problems than I’ve got. You’ve just gotta put things in perspective. Miller will definitely be in my prayers tonight.

  2. Eva - August 18, 2020 7:33 am

    Thank you for bringing all my problems into perspective.

  3. Sandi. - August 18, 2020 8:20 am

    How wonderful that young Miller sees the glass half full instead of half empty! I pray he wins the battle with cancer, and hope that y’all have another opportunity to interview each other in the future! There’s an ol’ adage which says, “If all our problems were hung out on a line, you’d still take yours, and I’d still take mine.” Sincere thanks for this post, Sean.

  4. eliz - August 18, 2020 10:12 am

    You did it again! Wow!

  5. Tammy S. - August 18, 2020 10:38 am

    What an amazing young man. Prayers for Miller, and his Mom. Once again, thanks Sean.

  6. Grace - August 18, 2020 11:07 am

    More of Miller, please. Good one, Sean. 💛. Yellow is for hope.

  7. Bobbie - August 18, 2020 11:35 am

    There are lessons for us in the least likely things, like Miller’s interview when instead, you learned from him. So many could learn from this. Thank you Sean. I hope you’ll stay in touch with him. God bless Miller, and God bless you for sharing Him with us. What an inspiration for us all !

  8. Cynthia Woods - August 18, 2020 11:36 am

    Sometimes our shoes aren’t so bad. Thank you, Sean and Miller, for the much needed reminder. ♥️♥️

  9. Tammy O'Connor - August 18, 2020 12:27 pm

    God’s timing…the people we meet. Just more evidence He’s got us …and we can get through.
    Thanks for sharing ♡

  10. Phil (Brown Marlin) - August 18, 2020 12:39 pm

    Good lesson for us all, Sean. As the saying goes, “If you think you’ve got it bad, just look around.”
    Praying for Miller and his mom. Also hoping you get some real coffee. I bet you are humming that old jingle, “The best part of waking up is Folgers in your cup.”

  11. Brenda - August 18, 2020 12:54 pm

    Out of the mouth of a child….. We learn 😉

  12. James e inman - August 18, 2020 1:25 pm

    From one that’s been there, yes it’s hard, no it doesn’t go away and yes it’s scary. Young Miller has found the answer though, ” I ain’t dead, you get through it.” Keep getting through it buddy, God bless ya, from another Son of the South.

  13. Steve - August 18, 2020 1:50 pm

    So good.

  14. Summer - August 18, 2020 1:59 pm

    Thankful you found your inspiration. Blessings to you and Miller.

  15. Helen De Prima - August 18, 2020 2:00 pm

    It’s all about perspective. I’m all excited because I just got a call from the neurologist to tell me I need spinal surgery. Because the crippling pain can be fixed — I don’t have to live with it the rest of my life. Perspective.

  16. Barbara Lawless - August 18, 2020 3:15 pm

    A positive attitude can be a powerful help in the fight against cancer. Miller is right up there. Prayers for him and his mother. She must be mentoring him right.

  17. Frank P Hardy - August 18, 2020 3:25 pm

    Great post. You should publish a book with all of your daily writings. Keep on writing ….

  18. Charles Lamb - August 18, 2020 4:24 pm

    I am sitting to wait for doctors at Mayo Clinic as I type this. He will tell me what’s can be done to give me more time on this earth. My stage larynx cancer is back and spreading in my lymph nodes. I am 67 years old and have had a good life. I have a beautiful family I Love So Much. Your interview reinforces that when you face death then suddenly your perspective about life changes . Your realize all the things you worry about and material things (even the type coffee you drink) do not matter. It is the Love for others that keeps you going. This is what Jesus did while here until it was his time to go be with his father in heaven. This is what God wants us to do while here. God is in control and he give us the strength and comfort for any trial we go thru . This will make us stronger and prepare us to see him one day. God is in Control.

  19. kathiekerr54 - August 18, 2020 4:36 pm

    you owe that little boy another interview.

  20. Linda Moon - August 18, 2020 5:36 pm

    Decaf coffee is only good for snacking on a cold night with warm chocolate chip cookies. My red can of Folgers gives me my morning inspiration. Later on, I need my distance-reader eyeglasses to get perspective while reading posts from Sean of the South. Today’s was not an easy one to read. During my second of four battles with cancer the child of a family friend died of cancer. I didn’t, and I’ve sometimes struggled with survivor’s guilt. But this is about YOU, Sean. Miller is a good student and learner, and so you are you. Charles Lamb and others are, too. Keep learning and teaching all of us, Writer.

  21. jeanne - August 18, 2020 6:40 pm

    A true reality check and a life lesson …… resilience….a biggie!

  22. Brian - August 18, 2020 10:50 pm

    Made my self inflicted bad day feel wonderful. Thanks Miller and Sean.

  23. Christina - August 19, 2020 1:31 am

    Sean, thanks for being unpretentious and for showing how we can often learn from “the least of these”. Kudos to Miller and much love and prayers too!

  24. Ann - August 21, 2020 5:52 pm


  25. Keloth Anne - September 25, 2020 10:41 am

    What a wonderful young man you are, Miller and how incredible that he got to meet you♥️♥️ Thank you for sharing your interview and prayers for Miller
    Sean, you make a huge difference and always bring the best out in a situation 🥰


Leave a Comment