The first day of Advent arrived and I attended church, which was a little weird. I haven’t been to church in ages. An elderly lady greeter in a pink facemask God blessed me when I entered.
I slipped into service to see an old priest offering a homily to five socially distanced people. I was sitting in the back pew as an observer.
Pink Facemask guarded the door and smiled at me with her eyes whenever I looked back at her.
“Hi,” she would say.
I bowed my head at all the proper times, and mumbled when I was supposed to mumble. But I’m not a liturgical guy, so I was basically just reciting the lyrics to “Louie Louie” behind my mask.
The message was short. The gist of the clergyman’s Advent sermon was an old classic: “find the good in the world.”
And I couldn’t help but think that at this exact moment our world is dealing with 1.46 million COVID deaths. Not to mention 266,000 in the U.S. Where’s the good in that?
Sometimes this humble writer asks himself where the heck is all the good? Heaven knows, if you look for good in newspapers or cable news it won’t be there because journalists sure as Shinola aren’t digging any up. Many news persons wouldn’t know “good” if it jumped up and bit them in the Associated Press.
But I’m not criticizing here. Neither am I throwing rocks at modern journalism. I’m simply saying that for almost an entire year the majority of reports you always see are about pure horror.
Now here it is Advent, and this old priest is pleading with a bunch of weary people to take a few moments to think of something other than how the word is crumbling.
So I did.
The first thing I thought about was an email I got this morning from a guy named Joe. He told me that this summer he took his dying mother to see nearly every state in the Western U.S. in a rented RV. It was the last year of her life. They saw every natural wonder there was.
When they returned home, both exhausted, depleted, and in good spirits, she squeezed her son’s hand and thanked him for “letting me see our beautiful country before I go home.”
And how about Marla in West Virginia? Marla adopted four dogs from a shelter who were from the same litter. They were 7 years old. They had all been living at the shelter since birth. The animals were never adopted because, according to shelter staff, nobody wants older dogs.
Until one day, along came a 40-something widow named Marla.
She adopted all four and took them to her 32-acre farm. For three blissful years they made a magnificent family. They slept in Marla’s bed. They ate her food. Marla even made them individual birthday cakes for their special days.
Currently the brothers’ ashes reside on her mantle.
There’s also Jake, a 62-year-old guy in North Georgia who lost his job during the pandemic, then lost his house.
He could have gotten depressed, but instead he decided to pursue bluegrass mandolin. So a few days after the bank took his house, he bought a cheap mandolin online and started video lessons to teach himself.
Yesterday, his adult children showed up unannounced at Jake’s place and gave him a top-of-the-line mandolin, which probably cost thousands. “We’re all here for you, Dad, no matter how bad it gets,” was the greeting his children gave.
When he saw the expensive instrument, Jake’s face split wide open.
“I think,” Jake tells me, “sometimes I just forget how much my family means to me.”
And don’t forget about young Reese, in Mooresville, North Carolina. Reese heard about a soup kitchen that gives food to needy families and she immediately started doing something to help.
As it happens, North Carolina is not in good shape food-wise. Since the pandemic, almost 2 million North Carolinians are not food secure. Meaning, they probably don’t know where supper is coming from.
Reese began collecting money the old fashioned way, by hard work. She raised a whopping $1,050, which she used to buy 107 turkeys, 35 hams, 48 cans of cranberries, and 48 boxes of dressing this Thanksgiving.
“She’s just a different soul,” said Reese’s mother. “When we were collecting, people in the store would give looks, asking where the party was, or they’d say ‘Hey, are you gonna buy this place out?’
“Every time Reese’s answer was, ‘It’s for the soup kitchen, they need turkeys. Are you giving?’
“And as we were checking out, there were a lot of people looking at us, and Reese would say, ‘It’s okay, Mom, the more people we tell the more people will give.’”
Thanks to Reese, and others like her, the small food pantry served 261 children, 430 adults, and 129 seniors over the holiday.
Reese is 9 years old.
Maybe that’s the kind of stuff the old priest was talking about. Maybe he was telling me to get out there and find the stuff that I can never seem to find on my tiny glowing screen. Maybe the old clergyman is right.
When service was done, I slipped out the door, thinking about what he’d said. But I wasn’t fast enough to avoid the elderly church greeter in the pink mask. She pumped liquid hand sanitizer into my palms then told me in a heartfelt voice to “Be a blessing, today, sweetie.”
I crawled into my truck and watched people in surgical-blue facewear file out of the nondescript chapel on a rainy Sunday, marveling at how much our world has changed.
And right then, right there, I decided that for this Advent season, I am going to do my best to heed that church greeter’s advice.
Sarah - November 30, 2020 6:23 am
Christina - November 30, 2020 6:25 am
You bless us everyday through the glowing screen. Thank you for your faithfulness Sean!
Joy Kiser - November 30, 2020 6:35 am
Dear Sean, you are a blessing today and every day, sweetie. Your stories are an important part of my every day. You bless so many, warming our hearts, inspiring us, from the old gentleman at to vegetable stand to Maria with a limp who found her love later in life—on & on each day you write beautifully, despite the teacher who told you you coulant write. Thank you, my daily friend. Blessings abundant. Joy (from Massachusetts but originally from Alabama.)
Trey - November 30, 2020 6:37 am
From across the Bay, I hear your liturgy, and echo back a hearty Baptist “amen.”
Pam Beauchamp - November 30, 2020 6:44 am
Patricia Watson - November 30, 2020 6:47 am
This old navy widow will be 80 in a couple of weeks. I don’t get out anymore and I’m in pain . I read you posts and I really enjoy them. You are a wonderful blessing whether you know it or not. I think you know it because your readers love you and they tell you what you mean to them. Keep up the good work Sean. We really need our daily blessing from you.
Lori Klein - November 30, 2020 7:42 am
Thank you Sean. That was indeed a blessing.
Tammy S. - November 30, 2020 8:13 am
Barbara - November 30, 2020 9:01 am
You are, Sean, you are.
Leigh Amiot - November 30, 2020 9:54 am
Right now my heart is full of gratitude to the Lord. A tornado passed through the region (S. Ga/N. Fl.) about an hour-and-a-half ago, and my roof is still in place. I did put on my glasses just in case I was blown away, so I could see when I came to.
So glad you made it to church, Sean. Church has been my lifeline in this pandemic. People need each other and the Lord!
Steve Winfield (Lifer) - November 30, 2020 10:29 am
stephenpe - November 30, 2020 10:40 am
Sean’s story about finding the good was my job for four decades. I taught children from a 5 to 13 yrs of age. Mostly PE but math, reading, computer skills, gifted. I did it all in my small rural schools. I will tell you one story about a girl that showed up in my PE class about 20 yrs ago. Her name was Rebecca and her smile would light up a HS auditorium. Every day that year she would come to me and look up with those huge blue eyes, blonde hair and a smile that would energize me for the next 6 hours. Rebecca had ADHD but that was never an issue in PE. She loved to run play and later on compete. She struggled with an old school kiindergarten teacher because of neither understood the other. Rebecca sent me a video of a girl explaining what your life is like with ADHD. It should be required viewing by all parents and teachers that have to deal with it. Rebecca is now 26 yrs old and we keep up with each other on FB. We met for breakfast in a local restaurant recently and she caught me up on her life. She is just as beautiful as she was as a child. She unloaded on me for two hours about her life, schooling, struggles and her first deer. She had the pictures from last week of this huge buck she took from 100 yards and then tracked it through the woods. The best part was her smile from telling it. She is currently just a month or two from getting her nursing degree. SHe has overcome so much to be so much. I swear I have 100s of former students that continue to show me the good in this world with their life successes. When I think of them I have to smile…….
Lisa Scott - November 30, 2020 10:56 am
You ARE a blessing today, sweetie!
Judy Mercer - November 30, 2020 11:02 am
You are a blessing to all who read your columns, Sean…
Te Burt - November 30, 2020 11:12 am
Since I discovered you, or your daily mental meanderings, you are the blessing that starts my day. I think you got it nailed.
Barbara Kirker - November 30, 2020 11:39 am
Sean, you’re a blessing to me every day. I love your column.
adjsumrall - November 30, 2020 11:43 am
Every year I choose one “word” that guides my year. By the last day of every year, I find that my one “word” has proven to be so true in ways I never expected. This year my one word was “good”…I know that somehow, some way, this year will turn out to be “good”. Thank you for this reminder of some of the many ways it can be just that. I’ll be looking for the “good” – and thank you for being part of the “good” that I find each day through your encouraging words. Love your writing and your heart.
Jeri Shuck - November 30, 2020 12:02 pm
Your words are a blessing! Keep looking for the good; our world needs more people who love others.
Greyn - November 30, 2020 12:18 pm
It must be said that even prior to your chapel visit referenced above, you have established a solid history of finding and passing along the good. And that is good.
Xan - November 30, 2020 12:34 pm
You know Sean, every morning before I do anything else I read my devotional, and then I read your column… every morning! So you see, you’ve been a blessing for a long time.
Vickie Margene - November 30, 2020 12:37 pm
You are one of the good things….every morning.
Ann - November 30, 2020 12:38 pm
You are, Sean….and you are spot on with every word today!
If only the media could heed your words they ,too, could make a positive difference every day, but the don’t!…so we all need to do some good in any way we can…
dkbfox - November 30, 2020 12:44 pm
I needed this encouragement today. Thank you.
Allison C Gilmore - November 30, 2020 1:08 pm
Sean, in so many ways, you remind me of Mr. Rogers. He told us that in scary times, we should remember to look for the helpers. In your post today, you don’t just tell us to look for the good, you also help us find it. Thanks for practicing what you so gently preach, and thanks for making me want to be a better person.
Jeri Bishop - November 30, 2020 1:19 pm
We read your column every morning, too, but, elderly heathens that we are, we read it before we turn to two daily devotionals, and this is yet another good column that helps brighten our day(s). One nit, and only one, broadcast news programs on ABC, CBS, and NBC make a specific point nowadays to close with at least one segment featuring just the sort of good-news items that you sweeten your columns with. The rest is not always good news, of course, because as that unhappy old journalism truism goes, “If it bleeds, it leads.” But it’s always good, we think, to give credit where it’s due. God bless you today and always.
Bkr - November 30, 2020 1:35 pm
Thanks Sean. There is a LOT of good in the world despite the media’s attempts to convey otherwise. Your stories should be front and center. Don’t stop!
Cheri Jordan - November 30, 2020 1:47 pm
You are a blessing!!! I look forward to your stories and your podcasts! Thanks for always spreading the good in our lives!
Nan Williams - November 30, 2020 1:51 pm
You are a blessing, Sean. You bless me every day!
Sondra Lange - November 30, 2020 2:12 pm
Hi Sean, You are the blessing your readers need everyday. You lift us up and let us see the good in our world. To all of us you are what that elderly priest is to his congregation. Thank you and know that you are my blessing today.
MermaidGrammy - November 30, 2020 2:31 pm
Oh, dear Sean, you are SUCH a blessing. To so many of us. You brighten our day, expand our horizons, and make us determined to do better to deserve you. Thank you for this wonderful Advent message. I can’t wait until tomorrow
Mary - November 30, 2020 2:38 pm
This brought tears to my eyes, thank you. Celebrate Advent as we look forward to prayers waiting for the coming of Christ, no matter how you worship. We are ALL one family.
Bobbie - November 30, 2020 2:39 pm
So many are complaining so much, they fail to see the blessings around them. I, at times, are one of them. The holidays are hard for me…too many memories of alcoholic parents. But then, I read this. A punch in the gut…a how dare you complain and be a whiny victim, when they are sooo many true victims who struggle day to day to find meaning in this crazy world. This is what your message said to me. I am vowing this morning to put on a happy face , a bright colored sweater and lipstick and do something “good!” I am limited but I can email, text, send a card, bake a cake. Simple things but have so much meaning. Thank you Sean as always for seeing the good, for sharing it with us, even in the darkest days. God bless you. I asked a dear friend many years ago…’why has the Lord blessed me as He has…I’m so undeserving. She replied, ‘you are blessed to bless others .’
I understand that now. Let’s all take a little Christmas Spirit with us whatever we do today.
In the words of Tiny Tim, “God bless us every one!”❤️🎄
MR - November 30, 2020 2:48 pm
Sean, keep doing what you are doing. God is using you to touch so many lives. More than you will ever realize. For many, YOU are their daily blessing.
Lynn Thomas - November 30, 2020 2:52 pm
God Bless you, Mr. Sean Dietrich
Jim Thomssen - November 30, 2020 3:00 pm
Thank You Sean.
Sounds simple, two words. Thank and You. They mean a lot though. They mean someone noticed. Somplace a person was touched by something you said, wrote or did. Big bonus if it was all 3. People sometimes preface these words with “I know its not much but…”. I wish they wouldn’t minimize their worth like that. Thank You can change the world.
Happy Advent to you and yours.
Kate - November 30, 2020 3:23 pm
I think “Be a blessing today” is much better than have a blessed day. When you are a blessing you always have a blessed day. Thank you Sean for reminding us to be a blessing and do good.
Jeanie Evans Walker - November 30, 2020 3:38 pm
Sean, you are a blessing to me EVERY DAY
Steve E Rafferty - November 30, 2020 3:46 pm
A very hearty Amen Brother! A new reader in Arizona
Norma Williams - November 30, 2020 5:25 pm
You are a blessing to me everyday. I never miss your comments. On Facebook yesterday someone had shared your story about the Dairy Queen in Andalusia. In was on growing up in Andalusia. Check out the remarks shared by we old folks who knew it from day on. Try some of Mrs. Euna’s Sauces. Have a blessed day.👍👏🙏🇺🇸❤️
Bill - November 30, 2020 5:34 pm
Sean, I wish I could feel like that, but I don’t. I really don’t have it that bad, but I just can’t seem to get the enthusiasm to move forward.
Linda Moon - November 30, 2020 6:02 pm
“Louie Louie” was just about liturgical for me with my best dancing boyfriend. My idea of proper liturgy has improved since then, Thanks Be To God. Bluegrass mandolin music would replace “Louie” as almost liturgical now. There’s lots of the right stuff like the priest described in you, humble writer. You, Sean, are blessed to be one of the world’s greatest of the “goods”!
Anne Arthur - November 30, 2020 7:52 pm
And you are right on the way to fulfill your promise, Sean. Among all the good in this world, you are a big blessing that brightens our day, everyday.
MAM - November 30, 2020 8:37 pm
You ARE a blessing to us everyday without fail! Thank you!
Berryman Mary M - November 30, 2020 11:44 pm
May we all “be a blessing” to someone this day and everyday! Thanks, Sean.
elizabethroosje - December 1, 2020 4:26 am
I agree with the many above, you ARE a blessing Sean. And I loved reading your description of this. I totally get the ‘I am not sure what is going on’ part … I am more used to my church now (Orthodox, the other older church, like the Catholics) but boy at the beginning, I was lost and shoot the first time I went I left halfway through the service (I came back at the end and stayed for lunch 🙂 )… I really like your words; I have said it before but why not say it many times, you are a blessing and your continual search for good and for pressing us to look for the good and to be kind, all of this is a help to me and others. And, I have a feeling, it helps you too. Keep writing. God bless you!!!!
Deena - December 1, 2020 1:56 pm
You have the heart and soul of a true Christian, Sean. Now find a church that you and Jamie are comfortable in and find your way to secure the rewards of being saved if you haven’t yet brought Jesus’ into your heart. If He has been fully accepted already, you are missing out on the Love , Fellowship, and opportunities that having a church home and family , will bring to you both.
Said in love, not as a sermon. ❤️
You both are very special lights in a not so bright world these days.
Hazel Barber - December 6, 2020 3:51 am
I believe you wrote this for my birthday November 30th. You said you were going to be a blessing and sure enough you were to me. Before my mother passed several years ago she had a saying. Every time something good happened to her, a beautiful sunrise, she felt the love of a friend, a beautiful flower in her garden just things that most people would consider ordinary. She would say that God smiled on her today. We need to recognize those God smiles that come much more frequently than we realize. Thanks for reminding us again of God’s love for He is good.
Julie - December 28, 2020 2:19 pm
SERIOUSLY⁉️⁉️⁉️ If 9 year old Reese can make such a positive difference, then SURELY many of the rest of us, with even a little where-with-all, can follow her shining example of giving‼️‼️‼️ Let’s FIRE UP‼️ God Bless You, Reese❤️