Last night, I stopped to speak to a room full of Baptists. They were a tough crowd. They didn’t laugh, and they wouldn’t even clap when I sang “Will the Circle Be Unbroken.”

Athens, Georgia—I’m at a dive restaurant. The food isn’t fancy, but the beer is cold. I am starving. I’ve been on the road for two days, bound for North Carolina, I am depleted.

This place is slammed. I head to the bar.

Last night, I stopped to speak to a room full of Baptists. They were a tough crowd. They didn’t laugh, and they wouldn’t even clap when I sang “Will the Circle Be Unbroken.”

After the show, I was feeling low. To tell stories to a dead audience is like being buried alive in cat-litter-flavored Jell-O.

After the show, a boy approached me. He handed me a note that was folded like a paper football. He darted away without saying a word. I shoved it into my pocket and forgot all about it.

So, I’m sitting at the bar, twenty-four hours later, and I discover the paper in my pocket.

The kid had a lot to say in his note.

I won’t read you his letter, but I will tell you that the kid is eleven. His mother is a waitress, a house painter, she runs the sound equipment at church, and cleans the sanctuary. Times are hard.

But he wanted me to know that he enjoyed my show—even though nobody at the First Church of the Frozen Chosen even cracked a smile.

He closed his letter by saying:

“…You did really good tonight, Mister Sean. You are loved.”

I folded the note and choked back alligator tears. It’s not every day a stranger says they love you.

Anyway, my bartender is an older woman. She is rushing to keep up with her workload. The men at the bar are impatient.

“Another, beer, honey,” one man says.

“I need mayo on this burger,” says another.

“Silverware? I need silverware!”

“Sweetie, I ordered an Ultra, not a Corona.”

She’s running in all directions, tapping computer screens, darting into kitchens, refilling glasses. And she’s falling behind.

The man beside me is upset. He’s a salesman from Tampa. He informs her that she brought him steak instead of chicken.

The man on my left is also angry. He owns a construction business in Atlanta. He finished his first beer ten minutes ago, she forgot about him. Steam is coming from his ears.

He lets her have it.

But she is strong. I can see it in her face. She takes it like a woman. She admits it was her fault. She holds a flat face and answers with only “yessirs,” and “no-sirs.”

One man gets his meal free. The other gets a complimentary beer. They leave the restaurant. And though I can’t be sure, I don’t see either of them leave a tip.

Now, she’s gathering the messes they left behind. She’s stacking plates.

I ask how she’s doing tonight. I make a few jokes. I’m trying to be lighthearted, God willing, maybe even make her laugh.

“It’s a rough night,” she says. “We’re short staffed, I’m doing five peoples’ jobs.”

My food comes out. It’s the wrong dish, and it’s lukewarm. I ordered ribs; what I get is chicken tenders.

But. I don’t mind a little cold chicken. Not tonight. I don’t say a word.

Eventually, her crowd starts to thin. She comes to check on me. She is embarrassed.

“Oh my God,” she says. “I just realized you got the wrong meal!”

She apologizes up and down. She tells me she’s not going to charge me for my food.

But I don’t want a free meal. I am going to pay because cold chicken happens to be my favorite thing in the whole world.

This makes her laugh.

Hallelujah. Laughter. The drought is broken. The heavens have opened. I have finally made somebody on the planet laugh. I wonder if she wouldn’t mind clapping to “Will the Circle be Unbroken.”

She hands me the bill. When she’s not looking, I write on a piece of paper. I fold my note into a paper football. And even though I am not a wealthy man, I leave a tip that will hopefully make up for the those who have short changed her.

I’m walking to my car. I see her through the window. She’s unfolding my note.

I can’t take credit for the words she reads. I stole them from an eleven-year-old.

“You did good tonight,” I wrote.

“You are loved.”

45 comments

  1. Denise - July 19, 2018 5:46 am

    I don’t think anyone has ever regretted being kind. “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ has also forgiven you.” Ephesians 4:32.

    Reply
  2. Ellen Turvey - July 19, 2018 6:11 am

    You are loved by this person. Oh I’m not a Baptist just a Mormon that thinks your great. So smile and enjoy your day.

    Reply
  3. Terri Donovan - July 19, 2018 9:19 am

    Oh why can’t we all be kinder? Me included. When we get mad, our vision narrows and all we can see if we want what we want when we want it and that is now. I pray I can pause more often at those times, take a deep breath and wait. Just wait. It doesn’t mean I’m wrong when I am waiting, just that I am maturing.

    Reply
  4. Judy - July 19, 2018 9:37 am

    Thanks, Sean! This is great! I enjoy reading whatever it is that God gives you to write each day.

    Where-abouts in NC are you headed? Western part, perhaps?

    Reply
  5. Cynthia Harmon - July 19, 2018 10:07 am

    Denise, you hit the nail on the head. This is the theme of my class for this year. It might just be every year. You can’t beat love, kindness, forgiveness, grace, and mercy. That’s why I love Sean. Those are his themes.

    Reply
  6. Cathi - July 19, 2018 10:12 am

    Yep, Sean, you are loved. And thanks for sharing that love so sincerely with everyone who doesn’t feel it every single day. It makes a difference to all of us. ❤❤❤❤❤

    Reply
  7. Leslie in NC - July 19, 2018 10:19 am

    Love, compassion and kindness is the only way. Sean, something tells me you will never forget your football note, and neither will she.

    Reply
  8. Barb - July 19, 2018 10:30 am

    Please . . . don’t think all Baptists are created equal! I attend the most warm, loving, kindest, joyful church in America. And we laugh a LOT! Yup, Baptist. I like your story. In fact ALL of your stories make me laugh, cry and be grateful. You, Sean, are a master at caring about people. I love that song. I applaud you. You are loved.

    Reply
  9. LeAnne Martin - July 19, 2018 10:40 am

    You did good, Sean. Thanks for inspiring me to do the same.

    Reply
  10. Jul Poe - July 19, 2018 10:50 am

    KINDNESS, yup….I need it and everyone else on the planet. Especially the jerks!

    Reply
  11. Maureen A - July 19, 2018 11:08 am

    What a wonderful gift you have for telling stories and making people feel loved… it doesn’t take much for one kind word to make someone’s day. A few months ago, it was a bad day at work -registers not working, phone ringing of the hook and I had a long line of guests waiting to check in either being rude or impatient. Finally one man is up to pay and says “we all took a vote while waiting and decided we don’t want your job” that made me laugh out loud and grateful that someone noticed how hard I was trying. It really doesn’t take much…Thank you Sean for making the world a brighter place for so many people. You are loved.

    Reply
  12. Fran Pearce - July 19, 2018 11:45 am

    Wonder what our world would look like if we all had a little more compassion and encouragement for one another? Looking forward to your visit to my Selma in October!

    Reply
  13. Judith Pierce Croxton - July 19, 2018 11:47 am

    When I read your posts, I feel as if my morning has a perfect start.

    Reply
  14. Barbara Pope - July 19, 2018 11:50 am

    You literally “passed” it on.

    Reply
  15. Terri Boykin - July 19, 2018 11:59 am

    Oh, Sean, you are a good good man! But, it makes me kinda angry that you were within hugging distance of me (well, 40 minutes) and I did not even know. Love you much, Terri

    Reply
  16. Scott - July 19, 2018 12:12 pm

    Thank you! My day just got easier.

    Reply
  17. Lynda - July 19, 2018 12:13 pm

    My name is on a Baptist church membership roll. I am embarrassed. I would like to apologize that you were made to feel low. This should never happen to anyone in a Baptist church. Especially someone who brightens days for so many people who feel “less than” and get to feel loved and valued by you.

    Reply
  18. Jackye Thompson - July 19, 2018 12:24 pm

    Loved the story of the waitress with a tough and unkind bunch of folks.A little folded up note
    is the greatest gift . A little love is what will save us all in this troubled world in which we all live.
    W WJD
    Jackye T

    Reply
  19. Dianne - July 19, 2018 12:27 pm

    Thank you, Sean, for pointing out that while some people are just plain self-centered and rude, there are others, like you, who do appreciate the effort and service of others. I know that your note meant more to her than the biggest tip she has ever received.

    Reply
  20. Edna B. - July 19, 2018 12:40 pm

    I just love this story. A little kindness goes a long way. Thank you for starting my day with a smile. Sean, you have a wonderful day, hugs, Edna B.

    Reply
  21. Stacy - July 19, 2018 12:44 pm

    Thank you for always encouraging kindness. It seems to be a lost art… just being thoughtful. I hope you have a good day today!
    S. Davis

    Reply
  22. Bo Brown - July 19, 2018 12:54 pm

    Dare to love yourself kind man. You’ve earned it and deserve it Sean.

    Reply
  23. SHERRY OKONSKI - July 19, 2018 1:22 pm

    Some days those words you are loved is all you need to make the day even the week better.

    Reply
  24. Ann - July 19, 2018 1:38 pm

    You do good every day. Thank you. Thank you.

    Reply
  25. Jack Darnell - July 19, 2018 1:54 pm

    As always, I enjoyed my visit this morning.

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  26. gary jensen - July 19, 2018 2:20 pm

    Ah yes, the frozen chosen. Good one, Sean! Such stories are worth a million bucks. May you continue to shine!

    Reply
  27. Jack Quanstrum - July 19, 2018 2:32 pm

    Perfect Story for me this morning. I needed that. Uplifting. Thank you Sean!

    Reply
  28. Joy - July 19, 2018 3:16 pm

    I have been in a few of the Frozen Chosen…and it is very difficult to fell the Holy Spirit with such an atmosphere….Thankful the 11 year old had Jesus in his heart and left you a wonderful note….and Grateful that you too have Jesus in your heart and helped a lady who evidently has Jesus in her heart with the way she handled the situation at work….Life IS hard…and people like you make a BIG difference. Thank you Sean… you are loved!

    Reply
  29. Summer - July 19, 2018 3:57 pm

    Dear Sean,
    I’m sorry for the cool reception you received at that Baptist church. Can I give you a nugget of inside info that might make you feel better? There’s an unwritten rule among many church folk (it may actually be written somewhere!) that you don’t clap in church. Ever. For any reason. Not for a good sermon. Not for a moving choir special. Not even for the oldest mother in attendance on Mother’s Day. It’s nothing personal. They just don’t.
    Then there are those like in our big old Baptist church, who clap for EVERYTHING – even a BAD choir special, or a great sermon point, for an old saint’s birthday, or my favorite, when a new saint comes up from the baptismal water. I’m told our church wasn’t always like this. I’ve only been there the last 15 of its 185 year history, but it’s evolved some even in that time. Halleluias! Amens! and lifting of hands are still pretty rare, but I notice more and more random rebels every Sunday from my perch in the choir loft — faces upward, eyes closed, hands lifted in praise. I also see a few old rule holdouts, usually in their same spot on the same pew every week, with staid faces and hands clasped in their laps while the rest of the congregation joyfully applauds.
    And that, in my humble opinion, is the crux of it. This world tries to crush it, but it’s really all about joy. Joy is awkward for some folks, even though it’s most profound manifestation is found in the very thing CHURCH is supposed to be about — Jesus. But knowing it, claiming it, feeling it and expressing it are all different things to different people, and we’re all at different stages in the evolution of each — each of us a work in progress. Even the staid saints… who may very well be joyfully applauding on the inside. Who am I to say?
    Anyway, I hope that helps. God bless you, Sean, and thank you for the joy you share. I also hope you’ll be back in Montgomery soon. You’ve got lots of fans at FBC!

    Reply
  30. Betty R. - July 19, 2018 4:04 pm

    Okay- feeling defensive. Ha ha– “Frozen Chosen” is usually laid on Presbyterians, but we have a warm rollicking Presbyterian church in Gainesville (GA) just 40 minutes west of Athens and about 20 minutes west from the same I85 exit to Athens (Rt. 129). Come back this way instead of Athens on your way home. We’ll take you to dinner or lunch or breakfast, and show you a warm-hearted community that knows how to laugh and serve.

    Reply
  31. Rhonda Howell - July 19, 2018 4:30 pm

    Let me tell you that waitress will be touched by this from now on. Had a similar experience as a teenager working at a cracker barrel. I had a large table that had decided before they came in they needed to release some frustration. The place was packed and the cook for the night showed up drunk. Yes drunk. The whole staff was struggling to maintain and this table was giving me “down the road”. Loudly and making sure everybody knew that the cook had screwed it all up. I too, tapped dance and told them I would personally pay for the whole table.

    After they left a lady came up to me and said I own a cafe back home and I would be proud to have someone like you working for me. It made a BIG OLE difference. Its been over 40 years ago and I would love to hug her neck right now.

    It also gives me hope that this child will not grow up to be a grouchy old man!

    Lots of Baptist are like mullets. Business in the pew, party out behind the cemetery.

    Reply
  32. Linda Chipman - July 19, 2018 5:40 pm

    To me one of the worst things a person can do is be rude to a waitress or waiter. They work hard and deserve respect and a tip even tho they may have gotten something wrong. We never know what someone else may be going through. Just be nice.

    Reply
  33. Michelle - July 19, 2018 5:52 pm

    I love you and all you stand for Sean.

    Reply
  34. Shelton Armour - July 19, 2018 5:55 pm

    Good man, Sean!

    Reply
  35. Cathy Butler - July 19, 2018 7:03 pm

    This story brought tears to my eyes. As a former waitress/bartender I remember what it’s like to be “in the weeds”. While I’m certain your generous tip was appreciated, I bet your kind words and note will be something she will remember for years to come. I know I will remember your story & I plan on borrowing the words of your 11-year-old fan and leaving a note for some who deserves it (and a big tip) the first chance I get.

    Reply
  36. Janet Mary Lee - July 19, 2018 7:45 pm

    This story just made me cry! I can not imagine anyone reacting to you in that manner. I saw you in Montgomery and I never wanted your talk to end. I knew you were tired and you still met with many of us that just had to connect with you before we all left. And you were your gracious and kind self the whole time! It remains one of the highlights of my whole life, finally meeting you. It is up there with my memories of sunny days with my grandparents, memories of my children’s births, and memories with every dog I have ever “owned” and loved. Precious Memories!! I can not fathom why they would not at least speak to you after. I know your talk was GOOD! The kindness you showed this waitress is what it is all about. Taking a long moment to see what is really going on. I try to do that when any conflict is happening. Kindness and Love wins ever time and should be used and expressed. Thank God for your little football boy, and thank God for you!! May May (hound) and me…we love you! I plan to stop crying in a minute!

    Reply
  37. Judy Ray - July 19, 2018 8:46 pm

    My mother was raised Baptist. She thought it was sac religious to applaud religious music. Maybe those Baptists were also taught not to clap when a religious song is sung. I can’t defend their other behavior – maybe they think it is sinful to laugh in church. 🤦🏼‍♀️

    Reply
  38. Susan Kennedy - July 19, 2018 9:14 pm

    I love this.

    Reply
  39. Johnnie B - July 19, 2018 9:45 pm

    Well you should have just ended your talk at the church with a hearty Roll Tide and at least you could have smiled on the way out!

    Reply
  40. cronkitesue - July 19, 2018 11:28 pm

    Another great one. Have a great life.

    Reply
  41. paula jones - July 20, 2018 3:06 pm

    After spending 48 years in the Baptist church, let me assure you that what you experienced was sadly ‘normal’ for many churches. At 65, my advice now is if find a church that understand life is both wonderful and horrible, but that the laughter in the wondereful times is what gets you through the horrible times.

    Reply
  42. Donna - July 20, 2018 6:51 pm

    This was a wonderful story!
    I loved it!

    Reply
  43. Jim Waide - July 20, 2018 11:06 pm

    Very moving.

    Reply
  44. Kelly Ray - July 23, 2018 11:57 pm

    Dude you are loved… by many…including me…Will the circle Be unbroken is an A P Carter & The Carter Family classic…To not appreciate a man attempting to perform it live in A flat is brutal…Shame on them…The Spirit is not in that place…It’s a social club apparently? God Bless You For Trying to spread joy and love as you always do…That 11 year old gets it…He has the faith of a little child…He needed your message…God sent you there for Him…

    Reply
  45. John Mann - September 13, 2018 12:50 pm

    1. If the earth is fit for laughter then surely heaven is filled with it Heaven is the birthplace of laughter. 2. If I am not allowed to laugh in heaven I don’t want to go there. Sean enjoy your stories and keep us laughing. crying and living that southern heritage that is so much missed. Love You, Brother

    Reply

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