September 9th, 9:18 A.M.—Hurricane Irma is making landfall in less than 24 hours. Anxiety fumes are in the air—you could light a match and the room go up in flames.
I’m in a Holiday-Inn lobby. This place is overrun with people. The desk clerk tells me that most guests are evacuees from south and central Florida.
In the main area: televisions are playing—volume cranked high. A few families gather around screens with worried faces.
I meet a Miami man.
“I’m pretty stressed right now,” he says. “We’re crammed in two rooms. My mother’s eighty-three, man. She don’t travel well.”
If the hurricane hits where forecasts predict, he’ll lose his home and his business.
He goes on, “I worked eight years finding new clients. All those twelve-hour workdays, my livelihood is gonna disappear.”
He snaps his fingers.
“This is my wakeup call, dude,” he adds. “I’ve spent too much time with my business, not enough time with my son.”
I meet a woman. Late sixties, wiry, with white cropped hair.
“Lost my husband two months ago to cancer,” she says. “And this hurricane might destroy our house, where we raised our kids.”
A few weeks ago, she started riding a bike to help fight depression. She brought the bike with her to help release nervous energy.
“I told God this morning,” she says. “Go ahead, take my house. It’s all just stuff anyway. I’m just grateful to have my kids with me this weekend.”
I meet a man with a long beard. He is six-four, and roughly the size of a General Electric refrigerator. His family lives in Central Florida.
“I’m with my wife and son,” he says. “But my mama and baby sister are evacuating now, they’re still stuck traffic.”
He shows me a cellphone photo of a traffic jam.
“My sister’s freaking out,” he says. “She’s twelve. I try to tell her funny stories to make her laugh.”
His sister begged him to stay on the phone—she’s scared. So, even though he’s with his own family this weekend, he has kept his sister on the line for the last few hours.
“Say ‘hi’ to Mister Sean,” he says into his cellphone.
A voice rings from the device. “Hi, Sean.”
The television screen shows Florida’s governor, speaking. He’s telling Floridians to get out of Dodge. And fast.
The lobby falls to a hush.
When the governor’s speech is over, a large black man with white hair walks toward the television and turns it down.
He says in a loud voice:
“Dear Heavenly Father, grant us grace…”
Everyone bows heads—even the staff. That’s what we do in this part of the world.
The man goes on, “Lord, keep us near friends and family, keep our children free from fear, keep our eyes on important things. Make us strong in the face of danger.
“May we do unto others as we’d have done. May we be brave enough to help any who might suffer…”
I wish I could remember everything else he said, but I can’t.
All I remember are the few of us, complete strangers, who bowed heads and joined hands in the lobby.
May God bless Florida.
Dianne Shaw Casolaro - September 10, 2017 12:27 pm
What a beautiful, simple prayer. Thank you for sharing it.
bewell40 - September 10, 2017 12:31 pm
Edith Clark - September 10, 2017 12:41 pm
Keep safe. God is still in control. May He be watching over all ya’ll.
Melodie - September 10, 2017 12:43 pm
Thank you, Sean. I look forward to your posts every day, and thank God that I still have electric this morning to read this one. Hunker down. I’m praying for all.
Marty from Alabama - September 10, 2017 12:52 pm
Calvin Jones - September 10, 2017 1:09 pm
Bobbie - September 10, 2017 1:14 pm
Praying for each and every one and sending a huge “HUG” to all.
Donna J. masmar - September 10, 2017 1:30 pm
You made it a special Sunday morning!
Scott - September 10, 2017 2:13 pm
You bring joy to us all, Sean.
Thanks & if you have the energy, keep writing.
teachenglish67 - September 10, 2017 2:34 pm
On the eve day of the horrific attack on our country in 2001 by a foreign source, we pray for grace and help about another horrific attack on part of our country…..Harvey, Irma, and the fires in the west. The man’s prayer of, “Dear Heavenly Father, grant us grace. Lord, keep us near friends and family, keep our children free from fear, keep our eyes on important things. Make us strong in the face of danger. May we do unto others as we’d have done. May we be brave enough to help any who might suffer…” pretty much covers it all.
Thank you, Sean, for your bright light in the tunnel of darkness so many are in.
Smiles and blessings.
Barbara J Schweck - September 10, 2017 2:49 pm
Amen. Thank you for sharing and know that you and your family are in m prayers
Catherine - September 10, 2017 4:02 pm
Praying for all in the path of Irma. May we all have compassion and love for our fellow man.
Amy - September 10, 2017 4:16 pm
There are thousands of us in living rooms and churches praying with you today. amen
Tish Gressang - September 10, 2017 4:25 pm
Thanks for your special insight.
Beth Thrift - September 10, 2017 4:43 pm
Thank you, Sean, for helping us focus on the One Who can bring comfort and hope in our direst hours.
Larica - September 10, 2017 5:37 pm
Thank you for sharing!
Charles L.(Chuck) Scott II - September 10, 2017 5:49 pm
Sean, al of your writings are good, some excellent and then there are the out standing! This is one of those. Thanks you for your perspective, all in all, Great!!
Alicia - September 10, 2017 6:00 pm
I’m in Memphis- my Mama and Daddy are in a tiny town in northwest Alabama and their Holiday Inn Is full of evacuees. My parents are 78 years old but their church and tiny town of Twin have come together and today they’re feeding the hotel full of 300 evacuees. There will be ham, fried chicken, dressing, fresh vegetables, desserts, sweet tea, and hugs. Along with the hugs will come prayer, conversation, and a lot of love. Those church ladies organized that gigantic potluck in about 30 minutes.
Jody - September 10, 2017 10:54 pm
What a loving blessing
Sandra Marrar - September 10, 2017 6:27 pm
Mary Schroeder - September 10, 2017 6:29 pm
I don’t think there has been a story of your’s that I’ve read that hasn’t had me in tears at the end. Good tears. Soul awakening, renewing tears. Thank you and please don’t ever stop writing.
Wendy - September 10, 2017 7:25 pm
Getting ready to hunker down in east central Alabama
Linda Bailey - September 10, 2017 7:30 pm
May the Lords goodness and mercy surround all people in this Monsters path
Pamela McEachern - September 10, 2017 7:48 pm
God Bless everyone in the path of Irma, the 23 psalm is in my heart for everyone in Florida and those already dealing with the rath of Harvey, I am praying for each of you.?♀️
Pamela McEachern - September 10, 2017 9:16 pm
Sorry, missed that w for wrath in my comments
Nancy Moore - September 10, 2017 8:03 pm
I am an older woman, a long-ago English major and an avid reader. I started reading your column several months ago and, frankly, can’t remember any other reason I read your column except that I also was bred, raised, and have always lived in the South, one place or another, and I like to support our Southern authors and artists.
I just wanted to tell you that I have so enjoyed the last few weeks of beautiful prose you have written. Thank you for them. Today’s column was wonderful. Thank you for sharing the beautiful, meaningful prayer.
Connie Burt - September 10, 2017 8:39 pm
Amen Brother Sean!!!
cudrow - September 10, 2017 9:36 pm
Think of all.the beauty stil left around you and be happy…Anne Frank
Pamela McEachern - September 11, 2017 4:59 am
Jack Quanstrum - September 10, 2017 11:35 pm
Yes, May God Bless Florida and everything in it! Shalom!
Pam - September 11, 2017 12:33 am
Melanie Tighe - September 11, 2017 2:03 am
Bless you Sean (((hugs))))
Sharon Hand - September 11, 2017 4:38 pm
Here in north Alabama we are opening our hearts, homes and churches to those that are displaced. This is all about Matthew 25:31-40. We are the hands and feet of Jesus.
Peg - September 11, 2017 4:59 pm
And may God bless you all in the days to come!
Mary Hennis - September 12, 2017 8:14 pm
I read where a little boy and his mom was at a drive inn to get some food. The boy saw the car in front of them had a Florida tag. He jumped out of the car and went up and paid for their meal. The elderly couple cried and was so grateful. That is what it is all about……..helping in need.