When the first sliver of light showed, the girl shot to her feet and ran along the beach, waving arms in the air. So did the others.

I’m writing this in the early morning. The birds are asleep, the crickets, too. The sun is about to rise, and it’s going to rise just for you. There is a faint glow behind the trees. Just wait.

I received a letter this morning from a girl I’ll call Caroline. Caroline is eighteen. She told me about herself.

She wrote:

“I feel ugly and I know that’s why I’ve never had a boyfriend… I probably never will have one. People don’t like me, and I’m worried that nobody will ever love me.”

Sweet Caroline.

Here’s another letter from a man we’ll refer to as “Elvis”—because that’s what he wanted to be called. Elvis is forty-four.

He wrote:

“My ex-wife broke my heart… Why is it I end up trusting somebody and they break my heart, and instead of hating THEM, I dislike MYSELF somehow? I don’t like myself…”

And this beautiful young woman:

“I have an arteriovenous malformation… Which is why my arm doesn’t work, and now it’s moving to my leg. The malformation started small, but has grown to the size of a tennis ball, giving me daily seizures and other obstacles…

“The hardest part about all this is being forgotten. I used to have a lot of friends before my diagnosis, but now…

“I get that people are busy, but is life really about being busy?”

Well, I hate to disappoint these good people who’ve written me, but they’re talking to the wrong guy. I don’t know nothin’ ‘bout nothin’.

The only thing I can possibly think to tell these good folks is about what happened to me during my seventh-grade year.

First, a little background: my seventh-grade year was shaping up to be a good one. Often, in the school cafeteria I’d have my pals laughing until milk spilled from their noses and they lost control of their lower intestines.

Then, September 14th happened.

The newspaper reported that my father swallowed the barrel of his hunting rifle. And my adolescent life went to hell. I dropped out of school. I became a faceless nobody—at least that’s how I felt.

I’ll never forget asking my friend’s sister on a date, years later, when I was seventeen. She turned me down. So I tried again. Strike two.

Finally I asked her, point-blank, what was wrong with me.

“Well,” she said. “All that stuff with your family, I don’t wanna be with anybody who might be screwed up.”

Screwed up. How about them tomatoes?

Still, that girl was actually doing me a favor because later that same year, I met another girl. She was a kind soul. She was quirky, outgoing, and she wore mismatched shoes. We never dated, we were only friends.

She was missing her right hand—she lost it in a horrific accident as a child. But this didn’t hold her back. She was a lifeguard, a guitarist, an artist, a comedian.

Late one night—I’ll never forget this—she and her younger brother knocked on my bedroom window. The girl said: “You wanna watch the sun come up?”

“But, it’s midnight,” I reminded them.

“So?” she said. “That means we have six hours. C’mon.”

I joined them on the beach. They brought jugs of coffee, a pocket radio, a deck of cards, potato chips, and blankets. Her brother brought his girlfriend.

For six hours we all sat on the sand. There was no necking, it wasn’t like that. We were friends. Buddies who talked, laughed, sipped Folgers and stayed awake until the sun soared above the mighty Gulf of Mexico.

When the first sliver of light showed, the girl shot to her feet and ran along the beach, waving arms in the air. So did the others.

I thought they’d lost their minds.

She sprinted toward me, grabbed me, and pulled me to my feet.

“C’mon!” she yelled. “This sunrise is JUST for you!”

I felt myself whoop and holler with them. I had no idea what we were so excited about, or why.

I’m older now. My whooping and hollering days are over—unless it’s the Iron Bowl. But right now, you should see what I’m seeing. It’s worth hollering about.

The sun. It’s large. Bright. Yellow. It’s here to wake up the whole world. The skies are unfolding. The crickets are singing about its arrival. The birds are applauding its entrance. I feel warmth on my face.

You’re on my mind. I know it’s hard, but just hold on for a few more minutes, whoever you are. You’re not alone. Look in the sky.

This sunrise is for you.

24 comments

  1. Chuck - July 21, 2019 6:46 am

    you have a heart of the truth South Sean, love fun and kindness. Will be nice to meet you in Pintlal to see if you are that real person. Will be nice to see the woman that helped you on your journey.

    Reply
  2. W.Gary Smith - July 21, 2019 8:53 am

    Thanks Sean! I love and frequently photograph sunsets. You have reminded me of the appreciation and significance of the meaning of the sunrise. It signifies a new beginning. God is giving us a new start, a new beginning to love, have compassion for others, forgive and more importantly feel good about yourself even when it seems like re odds are against you and life has been unfair. You are a child of God and he created you to be you! He does not make mistakes and we are all here for a reason.

    Reply
  3. Jim Sturges - July 21, 2019 10:44 am

    I just turned 37 the second time, and my brother turns 42 the second time, today. It’s a shame that Dothan didn’t have a beach, or we’d have been down there every day, rain or shine.

    What we *did* do in those wonderful spring afternoons of the 1950s, was lie on our backs and watch the echelons of yellow Navy training airplanes fly over our house. We figured it must have been some checkpoint they had to fly over.

    Years later, as a student Naval aviator, I discovered that Dothan was no longer a checkpoint. Brewton was the best you could do, and I wondered then if any little boy in seersucker shorts (and nothing else) was lying, alone, or with his hero big brother, like me, wondering if he or his sister might someday fly over their Momma’s house.

    More years later, returning to the carrier after night flying, we would sometimes see absolutely nothing but the stars over a mirror ocean until ever so slowly, brother Sun would come to join us another day.

    Reply
  4. Lisa Wattley - July 21, 2019 11:33 am

    Thank you for your frequent reminders of how precious life is.

    Reply
  5. Marilyn - July 21, 2019 12:19 pm

    Loved it!

    Reply
  6. Joe Patterson - July 21, 2019 12:47 pm

    Thanks

    Reply
  7. Marge - July 21, 2019 12:58 pm

    You give my mornings such joy! Thank you!

    Reply
  8. Linda Vaughan - July 21, 2019 1:13 pm

    I love your honesty! You words are powerful in their honesty and truth!

    Reply
  9. Keloth Anne - July 21, 2019 1:23 pm

    Oh life and it’s struggles—-it can be so tough!!! Thank you for always reminding us that the sun does shine and brighter days are ahead ??
    Love starting my days with your posts—
    Thank you ♥️

    Reply
  10. Mike Rogers - July 21, 2019 1:40 pm

    Hang on and NEVER give up.

    Reply
  11. Emily Gamble Granger - July 21, 2019 1:49 pm

    Sean,
    That was such a Great article! Life is hard and everyone fights their own battles, even the people we think that have the ‘Perfect Life’. Thank you for reminding us all to look for the Good and positive in everyone and everything!

    Your Friend from Dothan, Al.
    Emily

    Reply
  12. Donna Yanity - July 21, 2019 1:52 pm

    I am so glad that I found you !! I found you by seeing the book signing in Fairhope, last week (which I wanted to go to, but didn’t get to). I look forward to reading your stories, thank you .

    Reply
  13. Linda Moon - July 21, 2019 4:29 pm

    It’s nice to know I’m on your mind. You were on my mind yesterday when I talked to someone in MY family about YOUR family. I’ll be looking at the sky with the rest of us Night Owls who prefer sunsets to sunrises. The skies fold, and the world and I go to sleep.

    Reply
  14. Bobbie - July 21, 2019 4:54 pm

    Love reading the replies almost as much as reading your posts….almost?. This reminds me of Fiddler on the Roof…Sunrise…Sunset. Always loved that song. Am not an early bird but I do recognize the sunrise as one of. Your readers said…a new beginning. I’m more of a sunset person. While living at Cape San Blas, the highlight of most days was gathering to watch the sunset. Can’t tell you how many pictures I have. Love going thru them every now and then…reminders of the beautiful life God gave me for a few years. So amazing that they’re all different….the colors change the color of the water. And I soon learned a few clouds could make them even better. Oh, how I miss those days! But to everything a season. I relived a few moments this morning as I read about you and your friends, seeing that image as perfectly as if I was there.
    Thank you again, Sean. God is using you in ways you don’t even know. May He continue to bless you with these wonderful stories.

    Reply
  15. Louise Cammack - July 21, 2019 5:24 pm

    Your columns bring me sunshine! Thank you!

    Reply
  16. Jackye Thompson - July 21, 2019 6:19 pm

    What a lovely thought your essay was this morning…Very spiritual and loving .
    God Bless you .jackye

    Reply
  17. Barbara Pope - July 21, 2019 6:47 pm

    That was close one–you could have been stuck with the girl who turned you down at age 17! Instead, you were sent your own personal angel who helped restore your soul and heal your broken heart.

    Reply
  18. Ann - July 21, 2019 8:20 pm

    That sunrise or Sonrise is all about hope ??

    Reply
  19. Gwen Newman - July 22, 2019 11:13 am

    Thank you. You are on target with a needed message. The sunrise this morning really is just for me.

    Reply
  20. Brenda McLaine - July 22, 2019 2:08 pm

    Thank you Sean. Love you guy!

    Reply
  21. MermaidGrammy - July 22, 2019 2:17 pm

    Simply lovely

    Reply
  22. Janet Mary Lee - July 22, 2019 4:26 pm

    Amen..and beautiful! Loved the Folger’s can!!

    Reply
  23. Ann Bodiford - July 23, 2019 2:56 pm

    I am blessed to see a beautiful sunrise every morning.

    Reply
  24. Lauren Ulrich - July 24, 2019 1:35 pm

    Every morning I read several “devotional” writings, from theologians, preachers, etc., based on the scriptures, and I read your posts, based on your life. My spirit is nurtured by them all, but your writing is always THE one that moves me to tears. Every day. That you are so humble, and feel that you aren’t much of a writer astounds me because your writing does what all good art does: it moves the soul. (Of course, the fact that our lives have many parallels might speak to why your writing moves me so much, but I’m grateful for you every morning.)

    Reply

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