His family ate dried beans and rice. They’d been living in a friend’s camper. He worked every task he could drum up. Power-washing driveways, delivering papers, scrubbing toilets.

He found twenty bucks at a gas station. The bill was sitting on the pump, weighted with a rock. A Post-It note was stuck to the bill.

“God bless,” the note read. “Pass it on.”

About him:

He was broke. We’re talking flat busted. He had forty-three bucks to his name. Single dad. Two kids. Life was a mess.

He’d been looking for work for months. He’d taken small jobs, whatever he could find.

His family ate dried beans and rice. They’d been living in a friend’s camper. He worked every task he could drum up. Power-washing driveways, delivering papers, scrubbing toilets.

His friend’s sympathy ran out. They were evicted. He searched classifieds, filled out applications, begged employers.

They left for the city to find work. His car was on “E” before he even hit Clanton. He stopped to use the only forty-three dollars to his name. He prepaid for gas and almost vomited.

Then, it happened.

He was filling his tank. He saw twenty bucks. He tucked it into his shirt pocket. He coasted into Birmingham on fumes.

The first day in town, he walked into a restaurant with his children. He talked to the owner. He offered to wash dishes in exchange for feeding his kids. The owner agreed.

The things a parent will do.

They slept in their car, eating from Styrofoam boxes.

The next day, he visited construction sites, hat in hand. He was met with “I’m sorry, sir.”

That night, he washed dishes until midnight. His hands were pruny, his energy was spent.

He met a young Hispanic waitress. She was worse off than he was. Tips were bad, she had no husband, and four kids.

Before she left, he handed her the twenty dollars with the sticky note.

She read the note aloud. “God bless. Pass it on.” And she cried.

His two children huddled beside him in the backseat that night. He cried himself to sleep.

Homelessness is a downward staircase. You stumble a few times, then break every bone on the way down.

Morningtime. Tapping on his car window. A young Mexican man, and several workers dressed in white.

“Was it YOU who give my sister money?” the young man said in a thick accent.

“It was me.”

They were a painting crew. None of the workers spoke much English.

“We could use someone who speak Inglés,” said the young man. “Joo want a job?”

It was almost too good to be true. They painted houses the size of golf-courses. Several years he worked with them.

He was an asset. He confronted crooked contractors. He spoke English to customers. He wrote receipts and filled out bank deposits.

Some days, he spent ten hours with a roller in his hand. Some days longer. They worked like animals. They made decent money.

And that’s the story.

Though you ought to know that last year, he closed on the purchase of a new house. And you should know that his children are in high school. His new wife is a jewel. And he just bought a new truck.

He’s older. The lines on his face are from a lifetime of trouble.

He keeps a roll of twenties in his pocket. It’s not for spending. It’s because it only takes one small thing to alter the events of someone’s life.

And if you should ever find a twenty on a gas pump near Birmingham, Alabama, now you’ll know why.

God bless. Pass it on.


  1. Joanie Virgil - February 18, 2019 7:10 am

    what a wonderful story; thank you for sharing.

  2. Steve Winfield - February 18, 2019 7:29 am

    Angels. They’re everywhere. Sometimes you encounter one, other times you are one. God sees the big picture in ways we never will. God bless you Sean. You get to be an angel to so many and so often.

  3. Karen - February 18, 2019 8:04 am

    Thank you, Thank you, Thank you! This story moves me on so many levels. You can’t make this stuff up. You inspire us to love others. God Bless you.

  4. Cathi - February 18, 2019 8:19 am

    And once again I’m saying Amen!

  5. Christine Lance - February 18, 2019 8:31 am

    This story makes my heart happy!!

  6. Keith - February 18, 2019 11:04 am

    Love this story

  7. Naomi - February 18, 2019 11:57 am

    I’ve been there after a divorce, 2 small children and no child support. College degree in hand, I was desperate for a job. My guardian angel happened to be my ex husband’s mother who took us in until I could get on my feet. I didn’t know it at the time but she and her sister pulled some strings to get me a job with the federal government. I knew at that time if I had the means to help another person going through what I had gone through, whether it was their fault or not, that I would help them. We sure aren’t going to take our money with us when we die and you never know how much you are helping someone else. We were eating lunch out yesterday with some friends when I overheard a man at a table near us yelling at a waitress; he had just come from church. This poor waitress just stood there listening to him. We didn’t stay around to see if he left her a tip. I usually speak to our waiters and waitresses if they have the time. You would be surprised at what they are going through to support themselves and their families. They can’t even afford to eat at the restaurant that they are working in. Don’t “stiff” them and don’t yell at them.

  8. Steve Scott - February 18, 2019 12:11 pm

    Your stories are so inspiring. I look forward to your column every morning. Keep it up please!

  9. D. Green - February 18, 2019 12:14 pm

    A ray of light in what seems, too often, a darkening world. Thank you!

  10. Steven P Bailey - February 18, 2019 12:46 pm


  11. Emily - February 18, 2019 12:52 pm

    Yes, life happens! Thank you Sean for sharing this beautiful story, it reminds me to look a little deeper at my brothers and sisters and remember that there but for the grace of God go I. I’ve been keeping a stash of $5 bills that I can pass ahead.

  12. Lydia - February 18, 2019 1:09 pm

    Wow. Thank you for your stories❤️

  13. Cathy Moss - February 18, 2019 1:28 pm

    We all need to really think abt. Your message today. I try to tell myself that that person could easily be me or one of my children or family members. What if Jesus was there ? All some folks need is a little gas , A job and a chance. Thank you Sean for reminding us of this and for prompting us to give thanks everyday for the opportunity to pass it on. What a great way to start the week. Bless you

  14. Peg - February 18, 2019 1:30 pm

    Beautiful, heartwarming story. Thank you for your daily inspiration, Sean. ❤️

  15. Jamie Byers - February 18, 2019 1:48 pm

    You summed it up perfectly: God bless!

  16. Debbie Roberts - February 18, 2019 3:25 pm

    These stories are why it is worth driving from Gadsden to Dothan to see you. You are an excellent writer and you encourage us to be better people, to not forget those who serve and sacrifice , to be kind to everyone. Thankful for you and your messages in my life.
    Debbie, “your Gadsden sister”

  17. Ellen Cameron - February 18, 2019 3:39 pm

    WOW!!! JUST WOW!!!! Thank you Sean for the beauty in your words!

  18. turtlekid - February 18, 2019 3:46 pm

    Don’t know how you find your stories, but you have the words that inspire others.

  19. Edna B. - February 18, 2019 4:15 pm

    This is beautiful! I’ve been down and out, and now I always have some cash in my pocket in case I pass a Salvation Army bucket stand or someone holding a sign, or just someone who needs a helping hand. You have a wonderful day my friend, hugs, Edna B.

  20. Barbara - February 18, 2019 5:00 pm

    Sean, you have done it again, moved me to tears, thank you for sharing your inspiration with us. Your words make us want to be better people and to help someone in need. God bless you, please keep using your gift to inspire us all..

  21. Sheila - February 18, 2019 6:39 pm

    Sean, How so you find these people you write about? I’d love to know if someone shared this with you or you heard it first hand from this man. I pray God blesses you for sharing these inspirational stories because I know they bless lives

  22. Patricia A Compton - February 18, 2019 8:58 pm

    Amazing! This was heartbreaking and encouraging ar the same time. There are still great people around. Empathy is so nonexistent these days.

  23. Diana Williams - February 18, 2019 9:06 pm

    Love these “feel good” stories! If these don’t make you want to help someone… I don’t know what will!

  24. Dell - February 18, 2019 9:50 pm

    My eyes are misty

  25. Jack Darnell - February 18, 2019 10:09 pm

    I have been pretty broke, but never that broke. Tough people in the country. God bless ’em all. Good story dude, thanks… Life is good!

  26. Mary DeBell - February 19, 2019 1:05 am

    Beautiful story.. Thanks you for such encouragement.

  27. Kristine Wehrheim - February 19, 2019 1:22 am

    Thank God I have never been there.

  28. Taylor Carnley - February 19, 2019 4:26 am

    The simplicity, yet complexity. Beautiful.

  29. Janet Mary Lee - February 19, 2019 9:52 pm

    You did it again..!! I will pass it on….

  30. Amy Morissette - February 20, 2019 3:07 am

    Another great story! I look forward to your stories each day! Thank you!

  31. Ginger Hubbard - February 20, 2019 1:10 pm

    I know better than to read your stories at work…I’m sitting at my desk crying happy tears!

  32. Joy Luke - February 21, 2019 3:13 pm

    You have just made each of us a better person.

  33. The Key to Life | praypower4today - March 4, 2019 5:08 pm

    […] Or we might just change a life.  I read the perfect post about this earlier today at Sean of the South. […]

  34. Kelley - March 18, 2019 10:20 am

    A bunch of good people come from Clanton AL, I did. God Bless. Great story!

  35. Janie's Jottings - March 18, 2019 11:30 am

    Beautiful story Sean! I’ve been on the receiving end of blessings from others a few times myself. It’s something you never forget and it changes you into a person who tries to bless others.

  36. Sharon J - March 19, 2019 1:52 am

    We all should remember to pay it forward. Great story!

  37. Cheryl magns - March 19, 2019 4:24 am

    To bad it’s fiction. I wish that was the way our world really was, but unfortunately it’s not.

  38. Jackie Willis - March 29, 2019 1:13 am

    Loved this story ,angels are always among us and any one of us can be one!❤️


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