Don’t Worry

I have here a letter from Keisha, in Port Charlotte, Florida. Keisha is 14 years old, and very worried about Florida’s recent spike in coronavirus cases. Keisha says she’s nearly sick about it.

Florida’s numbers are through the roof. She says she got so concerned that she just had to write me. Which only shows you how badly her judgement has been impaired.

Keisha, while I write this, I hear ambulance sirens are whining down the street. And I am thinking about my mother because sirens used to make her VERY worried. She hates sirens. When she hears them she calls everyone she knows to make sure they’re okay.

My wife worries about sirens worse than my mother. And my mother-in-law takes the cake. When my mother-in-law hears an ambulance, she calls the hospitals and local funeral homes.

These women have become so worrisome that whenever I hear sirens in the distance, no matter where I am, I wait for my phone to ring. And it always does.

“Are you okay?” the voice on the other end of the line says.

“I’m fine,” I’ll answer.

“I heard an ambulance.”

“I’m fine.”

“I almost called the emergency room.”

I should admit right away that I am a worrier, too. I’m not proud of this, but you can’t change who you are. There are some traits you inherit. And I have inherited the ability to watch the ten o’clock news and have a panic attack.

Throughout my life, I have worried about the stupidest things because it’s in my nature. I worry, for example, that this little bite on my leg is actually a brown recluse bite. I worry about my transmission. I worry about poison ivy.

I have lost sleep over poison ivy. In fact, I don’t even want to be writing these sentences because I am deathly allergic to the stuff.

A few years ago, I was at a friend’s birthday party and someone’s pet chicken was walking around the backyard. I thought this chicken was great, he was so gentle and well-behaved. He jumped right in my lap and I was holding him under my arm all night.

His owner, an old woman named Marge, said, “I see you’ve met Mickey, isn’t he great? He eats all the poison ivy in my backyard.”

I calmly put the chicken down. I asked my friend if I could use their bathroom. There in the restroom, I stripped off my clothes and scrubbed my body with a wire brush until I was bleeding.

I could hear party guests gathered outside the bathroom door whispering things to each other like: “Marge said he was holding the chicken.”

Also, I have worried about money a lot. That’s always a big worry. How can a simple bank account do so much damage to the human psyche? It’s just a number. But it affects you. When your account is a good number, you feel great. But when the numbers go down—even just by a few digits—you feel like fertilizer.

You will worry throughout each stage of your life. When you’re younger, you worry about your job, about promotions, or about romantic relationships.

When you’re a parent, you’ll worry that you won’t be able to put clothes on your kids’ backs, or send them to college. Shoot, even college kids face more worries now than ever before in history. They worry about their futures, their grades, their safety, and the very real threat of running out of beer.

And now we worry about the coronavirus.

But one of my favorite stories about worry involves my father, who was maybe the most worrisome person to ever live except for maybe Don Knotts.

I remember one time when I was a kid, my father was driving along and it was a sunny day, and my father’s truck was missing its windshield wipers.

It wasn’t raining, keep in mind, and it didn’t even LOOK like it was going to rain, but he had no wipers. And he was worried because the forecast said there was a slight chance of showers.

It was a Sunday, no autoparts shops were open. So my father pulled over and rooted around in his toolbox for some autobody wax. Then he waxed his windshield.

“What on earth are you doing?” said my mother.

My father said he’d heard that waxing a windshield in wiper-emergencies made water roll right off the glass. He was smearing this stuff on the window like he was making a peanut butter sandwich.

My father drove home that afternoon, and—wouldn’t you know it?—it never rained. Pretty soon, he forgot all about the windshield wax. Eventually, he got a new pair of wiper blades and that was that.

Then, one day after he picked me up from baseball practice, we were on our way home, and it started to downpour. The sky opened up, so he flipped on his wipers and the blades started smearing caked up wax on the windshield.

Soon, his window was covered in a gray sludge that looked like unfiltered bacon grease and he couldn’t see where he was going. He crashed right into a fence post.

It wasn’t a serious accident, nobody was hurt, thank God. But my father sat there shaking his head, realizing that his own worry had landed him in the ditch. Because, you see, that is what worry does.

There’s a valuable lesson in all this somewhere, Keisha, but frankly I just don’t know what it is. So when you figure it out, share it with me. Because right now, I have to call a few local hospitals.

I heard sirens.

Whatever you do, don’t worry, darling.


  1. Tawanah Fagan Bagwell - June 27, 2020 9:13 am

    Yep, we must be related! I come from a long line of worriers too! This one really spoke to me. Thanks Sean’

  2. Curtis Lee Zeitelhack - June 27, 2020 10:58 am

    Sean, sometimes I worry about you.

  3. Linda clifton - June 27, 2020 12:20 pm

    Worry does no good! I know this but still there my mind goes. Round round & round until I feel dizzy & sick! I feel like I’m going to Punk. Oh no ! Now I’m worried something else is wrong . Gets you no where. Solution ! Don’t go round round. Just try to live in the moment.

  4. Ann - June 27, 2020 12:22 pm

    We decided this morning to cancel our newspapers….the media has so increased everyone’s worries and maybe we can start our day in a better frame of mind!
    Worry eats away at us, so looking for the sunny side and doing the best we can to make good things happen we can say…
    “ it’s gonna be alright”..

  5. Mitch Ferguson - June 27, 2020 12:45 pm

    Enjoyed as usual. When I hear a siren I say a little prayer to Jesus for the safety of the police, firefighters and others providing services and care. Don’t worry, be happy.

    • Marsha - August 6, 2021 6:43 am

      Dear Mitch,
      What a wise and thoughtful thing to do.
      A friend of mine, her five year old son was extremely scared when he heard sirens, taught him to stop and pray for ME when our town siren went off……
      Thirty years, I answered the call as a volunteer EMT. Those prayers kept me safe and helped me return home everytime.❤️

  6. Robert M Brenner - June 27, 2020 1:42 pm

    That was a heart warming reply to Keisha! I loved your dad story about the wipers, here’s one for you. A very good friend of mine replaced his wipers himself to save money. The first time he is driving with his new wipers and a terrible rain storm starts up and he can’t wait to try his new wipers. He turns them on in a gully washer and as he is expecting beautiful clear windows the minute he turns them on they both fly off at the same time so he ends up rolling down his window so he can reach outside and try to wipe off the rain but unfortunately he’s got the shortest arms in his state. Oh well, so much for changing your own wiper blades. Let a pro do it!

  7. Christina - June 27, 2020 2:35 pm

    When there was no podcast last night, I worried if you or your family was alright. Glad to know I’m not the only worrier here. Thanks for your dad’s cake up wax story!

  8. Linda Moon - June 27, 2020 4:15 pm

    “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”. Bobby McFerrin said that. “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong”. Mr. Murphy said that. And, “Don’t Worry, Baby”. The Beach Boys said that. So, you were in some good company with your good and empathetic advice to Keisha. Your father’s epiphany was brilliant….the one about the ditch. And you are brilliant too, Sean Dietrich!

  9. Earle Wright - June 27, 2020 4:31 pm

    My mother was a professional worrier. If there was nothing obvious to worry about, she could easily invent something in a matter of seconds. Not content to worry alone, she tried to enlist others to worry with her. It was the day that I told her, “If you want to waste your life energy in worry, do so. But I refuse to spend my llfe energy occupied with that. She was found out. The look of pure disdain she gave me, I had never seen before, nor have I seen since!

  10. Sue Rogers - June 28, 2020 8:39 pm

    That’s me too! I’m a born worrier and it doesn’t help being married to a man who doesn’t!

  11. Matilda Wille - August 4, 2020 9:55 pm

    My Psychology professor told me once that people worry in order to ward off troubles. He said they believe as long as they are worrying about it, they subconsciously believe it won’t happen. The fact that it didn’t happen is the reward you get for worrying. But in reality, we all know that whether you worry about it not, it might or might not happen. So worrying is certainly wasted energy. My mother worried. She would say, “I just heard an ambulance go out, let me get on the phone and check on everybody and see if anyone knows what has happened.” Because be assured, if something bad happened, the next phone calls were made planning on how to help the one(s) the ambulance went to. Money, meals, fundraisers etc. Small town America. The worriers always have your back it seems. God bless them.

  12. Janie Gentry - August 6, 2021 10:24 am

    My Mommy is a worrier. She used to have a scanner with police and EMS channels, and every time there was a call, she called her children and the neighbor ladies to ask who was involved.
    Mommy has lost her hearing now and can’t hear the scanner anymore. That’s the only good thing about hearing loss. But she still worries, about everything and everyone.


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