Dear Sean

I sat in a chair and looked at my reflection in the dressing room mirror, surrounded by a hundred light bulbs. “What a dork,” I thought, staring at myself.


I saw your show in Talladega last week and I really wanted to go up after and say hello to you to get one of those free hugs you were giving out to everyone in line, but I was so scared and nervous because I don’t feel good about myself right now. I am very shy. I have always felt like you get me. I wish I would have hugged you now.

Thank you,


I was really looking forward to doing that show in Talladega. I know that sounds like an odd thing to say. Because Talladega isn’t exactly Disneyland, but it was to some of us growing up.

When I was a boy, I would have MUCH rather gone to Talladega and seen Dale Earnhardt Senior drive his Chevrolet Monte Carlo than take ride in a Magic Kingdom teacup.

Once when I was a kid we camped at the NASCAR Superspeedway, and it was life changing. Consequently, I’ve also shaken hands with Donald Duck. I could take him or leave him.

But never in my wildest dreams would I imagine that someone would actually ASK ME to come to Talladega, of their own volition, to perform. The first thing I did after getting the call was to figure out precisely how to use the word volition in a sentence.

I am not the kind of guy who draws crowds. I am not a confident guy. I am the sort of man who often does his dog-and-pony show in rest homes, gymnasiums, and occasionally in front of eighth-graders who are more interested in grabbing each other’s butts than listening to a skinny redhead talk.

So there I was, backstage in Talladega’s Ritz Theater. The hallways were lined with headshot pictures from famous people. I’m talking: Ronnie Milsap, Ray Charles, Bill Monroe, Etta James, Tanya Tucker, and of course, Engelbert Hunperdink.

And I walked the long hallway looking at all these names and I felt really dumb. I mean, super-duper dumb. What was I doing there? I’m nowhere near Engelbert Humperdink’s level of coolness.

I sat in a chair and looked at my reflection in the dressing room mirror, surrounded by a hundred light bulbs. “What a dork,” I thought, staring at myself.

My hair needed cutting, I was wearing a corduroy blazer with a hole in it from when I slammed it in the car door. My boots are the same boots I used to wear when I laid tile and hung sheetrock. I can’t bring myself to get new ones because they are me.

The guitar I play is a 1950s Piece Of Junk. It’s literally a student-model guitar. Meaning: It’s smaller than normal guitars. Meaning: It was built for fifth-graders. Meaning: most musicians see it and go, “Dude, what’s wrong with your guitar? It shrunk.”

But I do have a trick that helps give me a little courage when I don’t feel good about myself. In my pocket I almost always carry four coins.

There is a giant commemorative coin I bought at the gift shop on top Pikes Peak, my father’s gravesite.

There is also a large coin I bought at the Grand Canyon gift shop on my wife’s fortieth birthday.

There is a quarter I found on the street one day when I was feeling pretty blue, about four years ago. On the back is the engraving of a blue heron. My father always reminded me of a heron with his long skinny legs and lean neck.

The fourth coin is a gold dollar given to me by Mister Danny, a friend of the family. Mister Danny has a prosthetic arm with a hook. He lost his arm while cleaning a gun. He and his wife, Miss Jenny, were staying at the same inn where my wife and I spent our first night as a married couple. And at breakfast the next morning, Mister Danny reached into his pocket, handed me this gold dollar, and winked.

He said, “Congratulations.”

I don’t know why I am telling you this except to say that what you saw on that Talladega stage was a person just like you. A guy who feels so painfully average it would make you cringe. I am a person who needs silly coins to make him feel better. Which doesn’t even make sense.

I guess I carry them because they sort of remind me how fragile life is, and how I don’t want it to end. But of course I know it will.

Life doesn’t last. And I know that when it does end, I will wish that I could go back and do it all over again. Falling in love, laying tile, hanging sheetrock, telling stories and jokes on small-town stages, sitting in dressing rooms, getting gold dollars from Mister Danny.

But it doesn’t work that way. I only get one chance to live. And as it stands now, I’ve wasted too much time feeling like a dork. I’m ready not to feel that way. I’m ready to feel like I matter as much as—that’s right—Engelbert Humperdink.

So I wish you would have come to see me. Because I would have talked to you until you begged me to stop. Because I like you. I know this because beautiful people are those who do not know it. If they did know their own beauty, they would probably just mess it up.

I would have had my picture made with you. We could have talked about your family. Or about mine. And I would have given you a coin that I carry for special people like yourself.

Anyway, you might wonder what in the world you just read here.

This was a hug meant just for you.


  1. GaryD - October 29, 2019 9:08 am

    That letter written by “YOUR FAN” could have been written by me. It wasn’t, but it could have been.

  2. Janice - October 29, 2019 9:30 am

    Again, you’ve done it. So special! Tears. Janice

  3. Harriet - October 29, 2019 10:25 am

    I hope I can come see you in Columbus, Ga.

  4. Joretta Parker - October 29, 2019 12:19 pm

    Sean, your column touched my heart this morning. I’m sure this young man will feel ten feet tall when he reads it. You are blessed with a kind and caring heart.

  5. Deborah Boccuti - October 29, 2019 12:35 pm

    Sean, you are a beautiful soul! The world needs more Sean! Deb

  6. Connie Havard Ryland - October 29, 2019 12:46 pm

    I wish there were more people like you. I am a strange person. I’m painfully shy in front of crowds but nobody would ever guess that because I will talk to anybody. I hate the way I look. I don’t look in mirrors. I don’t have my picture made. But I have two pictures with you. And I know you don’t remember me and that’s okay. I just know I got a couple pictures and a couple of hugs from a really sweet person who also happens to be famous. If you don’t believe that, look out at your audiences, check your followers on Facebook, look at the sheer number of people who read your column every day. Famous. And still nice.

  7. Susan Self - October 29, 2019 12:54 pm

    This was the most perfect hug. The warmest hug. I borrowed it too Sean, because I needed it this morning. Thank you.

  8. Beverly Wynn Bua - October 29, 2019 12:56 pm

    Sean.. I agree with all the above comments…. I love that you always remind me how important it is to just be kind each day..
    You nailed it❤️Thank you

  9. Mary - October 29, 2019 2:06 pm

    Sean, being at the receiving end of one of your famous hugs, I can vouch for its power to make you feel like you matter. But really….no way Jamie is 40!

  10. Steve - October 29, 2019 2:32 pm

    I know a man you carries a buckeye in his pocket every day. It makes him “feel” lucky. His isn’t lucky of course. In fact, I would consider his life quite tragic. I once had a Rolex watch. It made me feel successful and important. I sold it when I no longer felt that way. Now I carry a small pocket knife. The kind all men carried a generation or two back. It makes me feel connected to a time and place I never knew. One that I’ve imagined was simpler, easier to navigate than the one I live now. It’s strange how we place meaning and emotions to material things. Don’t even get me started on Jake’s dog collar.

  11. Purplenannyo - October 29, 2019 3:33 pm

    You always have the perfect words! 🥰

  12. Pat Jarrett - October 29, 2019 3:50 pm

    Hey Sean! Caught a post on FB. Then went to your Website. Posted your most recent letter on Facebook too. Yesterday would have been my only son’s 44th Birthday. I lost him March12, 2018. I wish he had known of you. I think it would have uplifted his heart and soul. I am a native Texan living in Florida. 71 years old and missing my boy. You sound like him. Keep doing what you do. I will keep up with you and keep sharing your thoughts and words to uplift others.
    Sean dearheart! You ARE WORTHY!

  13. Linda Moon - October 29, 2019 4:08 pm

    While attending some of your live events, such as the one at Talladega’s Ritz Theatre, I’ve sometimes wondered why your elbows stick out so far when you play your guitar. Now I know: the small guitar makes your arms look longer than they actually are. I’m so happy YOU brought ME to Talladega. It was more than a chance to see you again. I “saw” and loved on some people at Oak Hill, just a few blocks over from the Ritz. Maybe I “saw” your dad, too, when I was at the top of Pike’s Peak some years ago. Maybe the essence of his ashes beautifully blew onto me. Ashes and gravesites do make us think of life’s fragile and ephemeral nature. The next time I drink coffee from my Grand Canyon mug, remember my swim with a heron in Gulf Shores, and look at old photos from Pike’s Peak, I’ll think of your dad. And of you in Talladega. It was my Disneyland.

  14. Shelton A. - October 29, 2019 4:36 pm

    Dear Fan…here’s a hug from me too. I’ve always doubted myself and don’t have the best self-image. Even when I found that I was really good at something, I waited for the walls to come crashing down. Now I am more relaxed because with a few exceptions, most folk have their doubts…it’s what links us all. Many blessings to you and take care. Read Sean’s letter as many times as you need to so you can feel part of the group. Take good care, brother.

  15. Marci - October 30, 2019 2:17 am

    I love your heart.

  16. jerry - October 30, 2019 2:49 am

    Wow! I’m impressed! (not that I wasn’t already) Underneath that rather weird exterior you’ve got a heart of gold. Thanks for blessing a lot of people with the entertainment you provide, including the HUGS.

  17. Sandi. - October 30, 2019 6:03 am

    Sean, this was such a heartfelt response to one of your fans. You would be absolutely FANTASTIC at holding up one of those “Free Hugs” signs on a busy city sidewalk or other public place, and hugging everybody who came up to you with their arms open wide for a hug! A friend and I got poster board and made two such signs, took them to Ft. Myers Beach one afternoon, and never in my life have I given or received more warm, welcoming hugs from so many different strangers, young and old! It was a memorable, uplifting, delightful experience. Just watching some of the “Free Hugs” videos on You Tube will guarantee to increase your smiles!

  18. D - November 23, 2019 4:55 am

    Every. Single. Night.
    Dang it. I’ve GOT to stop reading your columns before bedtime!! ALL THE TEARS. How do you EVEN do this?!?!

  19. Carol Watson - November 23, 2019 6:29 am

    Thank you again for a beautiful story! As always somehow you make me feel normal & blessed , you see I’m am old lady dork. Always will be but now I feel somewhat “normal” 🥰

  20. Shanan Atkinson - November 23, 2019 11:10 am

    I’d like to say this is my favorite. It’s definitely in the top 3 of all the columns. You’re amazing. Thank you.

  21. Sonya Tuttle - November 23, 2019 1:19 pm

    Every time I read your essays my eyes start leaking. Is it allergies or what? I think it is empathy wit what you write. You are a treasure to us.! 💟💟💟

  22. Anne Trawick - November 25, 2019 2:39 am



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