Listen, I don't know where the world is going. To tell you the truth, just the prospect makes me sick to my stomach.

Birmingham, Alabama—in traffic, a busy intersection. I saw a man with a long wiry beard wander between the cars, holding a cardboard sign that read: “God bless you.”

The car ahead of me opened its passenger door. A young boy leapt out and handed the man a box of pizza. No sooner had he done so, than someone from another car gave the man bags of groceries. Then, someone gave him money. Then another person.

And another.

Soon, there were twenty hands poking out

of car windows. I wish you could've seen that fella's face.

Santa Rosa Beach, Florida—I got home from work to find my wife playing cards with a complete stranger. A sixteen-year-old girl, with dreadlocks, glittery-jeans, and a smile on her face.

“This is Taniqua,” said my wife. “Her car broke down, we're waiting for the tow truck. Wanna play five-card draw?”

I stood dumbfounded.

Of course…

Because the truth is, being human hurts like hell. That’s not exactly something people talk about during graduation ceremonies, but it’s true.

Kids, enjoy your life. God knows, you only get one crack at it, and then before you know it (snap), it's game over.

If you're like me, you'll get everything wrong. You'll follow the wrong career, wrong ideas, wrong people, lose money. Don't worry about it. Everyone gets it wrong. Mistakes are free. And chances are, if you haven't thrown a wrench into your own plans, your parents already did this for you several years ago.

Go buy an ice cream sandwich, have a good cry, and try to be happy.

Because the truth is, being human hurts like hell. That's not exactly something people talk about during

graduation ceremonies, but it's true. The moment you declare yourself an adult, you turn into a frightened coon—you might dodge the hunter a few times, but in the end, your tailsection becomes a hat.

Oh sure, I like inspirational speeches about success, fame, fortune, and how working hard pays off. Promises of how you'll be rolling around in piles of cash if you think successful thoughts and say some trademarked magic words.

Well, permit me to give you my opinion:

Chicken fertilizer.

Life is not about fame and fortune. Some folks crave…

I guess what I'm trying to say is: right now, the entire universe is only a few seconds away from bursting into applause.

I love the sun. Any time of day, but especially morning. I also like paper plates—the flimsy kind that aren't stiff enough to hold a spoonful of potato salad. And barbecues. I like conversations at barbecues. Folks hardly ever talk about work, or bills. But about kids, sports, and how crazy Uncle John is.

He's nuts.

I'm crazy about pencils, rickety screen doors, old folks, quiet folks, loud folks, zinnias, and mobile homes. I like the sound of wind blowing through the woods—like the earth exhaling.

And coffee.

I once spent an entire summer in Georgia with relatives who drank decaf. Worst summer of my life. I didn't have the

personality God gave a houseplant.

And, I like yellow. As a boy, I preferred blue. But someone told me blue was depressing. So, I tried to like yellow. After several years, I can't get enough of it.

I like George Jones, Steel Magnolias, Delta Burke, and stories told by people with white hair. Girls who wear hunting boots. And boys who say, "Yes ma'am," to girls their own age.

I like tiny churches.

I once knew a pastor of a microscopic Baptist congregation—a factory-worker by day. He wouldn't accept a…

Let me be frank, sometimes I don’t know what’s happened to the world. Each day it’s something worse. If it’s not a mosquito-borne disease killing babies, it’s a terrorist massacre in a public place.

I'll call him Bobby. He was a sheriff's deputy for a small area. Bobby stopped on the highway to help a young mother with a flat tire. While the woman's four-year-old watched Bobby loosen lug nuts, a car swerved toward them. Bobby's first instinct was to shove the child out of the way. He did.

After years of physical therapy, and handfuls of surgeries, Bobby uses a walker and drools while he eats.

He says, with labored speech, “I'd do it all over again. In a heartbeat.”

A heartbeat.

Here's another: in the supermarket parking lot, a teenage girl choked inside her car. By pure chance, two construction

workers pulled alongside the girl and noticed her in the front seat, red-faced. When they tried to open her car door, it was locked—the girl almost unconscious.

One of the men used a hammer to smash her window, dragged her out of the car, then performed the Heimlich.

Today, she's a real estate agent.

Outside Alexandria, Louisiana: two teenagers discovered a homeless man's camp one day while he was away. The next day, the kids delivered several wagons of canned food, pasta, rice, potatoes, snacks, and coffee. Enough provisions to last a…

I watched a woman’s credit card get denied. Her three children had already finished their suppers.

Once, I saw a middle-aged man stop four lanes of traffic, just outside Atlanta. He did it for a confused dog. The frightened thing stood in the center of the interstate, panting.

When the man loaded the dog into his car, he said, “This old fella's gonna be nineteen tomorrow. He gets mixed-up, but he's a good boy.”

He looked like a good boy, too.

Shreveport, Louisiana: at Waffle House. I watched a woman's credit card get denied. Her three children had already finished their suppers. The woman hung her head and actually offered to return later and wash dishes.

The cook stepped in. “Sweetie, supper is on me.”

Without hesitation, the man removed his wallet and paid for the meal himself. Fifteen minutes later, as if on cue, four truckers tipped that man four twenty-dollar bills.

Enterprise, Alabama: I saw a child climb too high in a tree. He froze when he got to the top. A slew of parents tried to talk him down. No dice. Finally, a teenage boy kicked off his shoes and scurried up like an acrobat.

“Get on my back,” said the teenager.

That teenager carried sixty pounds all the way to the bottom.…

Not that it matters what I think, but this world is a mess. Open your newspaper, turn on your television. Selfishness is for sale, and it's selling at clearance prices.

New Orleans, Louisiana: I once saw a teenage boy, lean as a two-by-four, tap-dancing on a sheet of cardboard. His brother beat a plastic bucket with drumsticks. The percussion got faster; so did the kid's feet. Before long, fifty spectators had gathered. The kid danced until he broke a sweat.

For his big finish, so help me, the kid did a backflip. I found myself applauding and carrying on.

When the boys finished, all they'd earned were seven dollars in tips. I know this because five dollars in that box came from me. The disappointed young dancer swallowed his pride and yelled to everyone, “God bless y'all!”

And he looked like he meant it, too.

Chipley, Florida. Piggly Wiggly. A young girl and her boyfriend stood ahead of me in line. Her, with a baby on her hip. Him, covered in sawdust. On the conveyor belt: basic groceries, baby food, diapers, and formula.

The skinny boy reached into his pocket to pay. When he did, the manager came over and whispered

into the young man's ear, then winked at him. The kid put his wallet away, and with sincerity he said, “God bless you, sir.”

They left with a full buggy.

Mobile, Alabama: my truck broke down. It was raining. And during the dark-ages, before cellphones, to be stranded meant exactly that.

Four Mexican construction workers on their lunch break approached me. One of them was a mechanic. He fixed my truck right there. I tried to pay him, he refused. He slammed my hood shut, shook my hand, and left me with a "God bless you, my friend." He said it in such a thick accent I almost missed it.

Not that it matters what I think, but this world is a mess. Open your newspaper, turn on your television. Selfishness is for sale, and it's selling at clearance prices.

But to those of you who tap dance; who…

Have you watched the news recently? I don't mean to complain, but it's a never-ending circus of sadness and horror. If they're not reporting on mass shootings, they're talking about the possibility of mass-shootings. And when they're done, they discuss mass shootings.

Well, I speak for millions of Americans when I say: I'm disturbed. What about the good stuff? In our giant of briar-patch world, there are millions of strawberries that pop up every day. And if you'll permit me, I'd like to tell you about a few.


I'll begin with schoolchildren who visited a Missouri Humane Society last Wednesday. The kids are part of a program in which students practice reading storybooks to rescue dogs. The purpose: to calm traumatized animals — and because everyone hates math.

Florida: ninety-year-old lottery winner, Ruby Sorah, won forty-three million dollars. Let that sink in for a second. This week, Ruby told reporters she's giving all her money away. Every last cent. Not even a trip to Vegas to see Celine Dion.

My granny never even gave Christmas cards.

In other news: meet a blue-eyed newborn with a severe brain abnormality. His birth mother abandoned him in a West Virginia hospital the day after his birth. The next morning, Rhonda Farley, a stranger, adopted the baby on the spot, without hesitation. “I believe," says Farley. "Every child needs somebody. Especially kids with special needs."

Which brings us to Kiera Larsen, who died on Monday after pushing two toddlers out of the path of an oncoming SUV. When she saw the runaway vehicle, she displayed bravery that was downright other-worldly, with no regard for her own life.

She died a hero.

Yes, our world is full of hatred, which is no shock. Just watch the news. There are killers with semi-automatics, madmen with bombs, and candidates caught in sex scandals.

But there are also saints like Kiera. Good people with a kind of…