Cracker Barrel, 8:17 P.M.—it’s busy tonight. There’s a boy in a wheelchair at the table beside me. His father is spoon feeding him cooked apples and fried chicken.
When the boy’s sister says something funny, the boy claps and laughs.
His father wipes his face with a rag and says, “You’re my special boy.” Then, he kisses his forehead.
A nearby girl wanders toward the boy. She is four, maybe. Her hair is in locks. She stares at him with her hand in her mouth.
“Is he okay?” she asks.
The boy leans and gives a big “HELLO!”
There are apple bits on his chin.
The girl gives a smile brighter than a Christmas tree. “HI THERE!” she says in return. Then, she skips off.
Three tables from the boy is an old man. He is wearing a ball cap, Velcro shoes. He’s sitting at a two-top. He orders chicken-fried steak and potatoes. He has no cellphone to occupy his attention. No reading material. He sits.
He and I share a waitress. Her name is Blanche—it’s embroidered on her apron. Whenever he speaks to her, he holds her hand. Something you don’t see much.
He has a voice that sounds beautifully genteel. It’s a wonder he’s all alone.
Behind him is a table of Mexican workers—men, women, and kids. They sit covered in paint and grit. They speak rapid Spanish. Lots of laughing.
One Mexican boy crawls into his mother’s lap. She strokes his silk hair with her paint-spotted hand, saying, “Cariño mio,” over and over.
And though I don’t know Spanish, I imagine this, more or less, means: “You’re my special boy.”
To their left: a teenage couple. He weighs a buck ten, she is a foot taller than him. They hold hands when they walk out. They kiss. They look drunk on each other. What a feeling.
When I pay my tab, Laney is my cashier. She takes my breath away.
I haven’t seen Laney since she was a ten-year-old in Vacation Bible School class. She’s in her mid twenties now. She has two kids. She’s a fine young woman.
God, where has time gone?
I ask about her mother. While we chat, the boy in the wheelchair is leaving the restaurant. His father wheels him out the door.
The boy throws his hands and says, “BYE EVERYONE!”
I wave goodbye. Most folks in the gift shop do the same. There’s not a single frown among us. How could there be.
Because it’s all around us—whatever you call it. I suppose it’s always here, hanging in the air like potpourri my mother would make on the stovetop.
It saves lives. It changes people. And you won’t find it on a television, smartphone, or newsfeed.
Sometimes I pay attention to it and it makes me feel strong. Other times, I don’t.
Tonight I did.
There goes one special boy.
Ed (Bear) - August 14, 2022 9:26 am
Thanks Sean! You made your dinner into an interestingly good and uplifting adventure with your keen eye for humanity’s thought provoking details.
Here’s another of my cheesy entries into your blog. The inspiration came directly from your writings. You help us feel good: https://www.eds-art.net/meanderings/#good
Janet Gray - August 14, 2022 11:02 am
In a world that is upside down,it only takes one to make it right side up! Thank you Sean for sharing. You are my special boy thru writing.
Jim Duncan - August 14, 2022 11:31 am
Sean, ater reading your “sp[ecial boy” column this morning I had a very warm feeling and a sense that all is right. Thanks
for the rare talent you have to be able to do this.
Linda Kerr - August 14, 2022 12:14 pm
Well, there’s another special boy You’ll find his name at the end..
robnrockin - August 14, 2022 12:35 pm
We love you comments because you are one special boy too. Thanks for sharing! Robyn
Paul McCutchen - August 14, 2022 12:44 pm
If everyone had his look on life we would be better off.
Trent - August 14, 2022 12:47 pm
Felt like we were right there with you – one of your many gifts – the joy of life itself my friend. Treasure the moments when we are “tuned in” to those around us…
Lyn - August 14, 2022 12:52 pm
Richard Owen - August 14, 2022 1:25 pm
I often wonder what would happen to my photo blog if I could write as eloquently as you, Sean. But, while you and my wife have those writing skills to paint a picture, I only have my camera.
David Britnell - August 14, 2022 1:29 pm
Dolores - August 14, 2022 1:41 pm
Once in a while we are blessed to catch a glimpse of heaven: a place where the only motive will be love.
Patricia Gibson - August 14, 2022 1:42 pm
So true and what a blessing when we let ourselves experience the goodness in all people ❤️
Mama D - August 14, 2022 1:44 pm
Thank you, dear Sean. As someone easily old enough to be your mother, I must tell you that – although I am richly blessed with children and grandchildren who fill my life with joy – you are often that ‘one special boy’ who brings an appreciation of the world and people around me in new or forgotten ways. Thank you for sharing those very special moments and for helping us, your readers, look for them, as well.
4175 M - August 14, 2022 1:45 pm
i enjoyed reading this. A reminder to take in whats happening around us and to be kind to those with special gifts.
liveoak53 - August 14, 2022 1:48 pm
This simple story brought me to tears. I’m a 68 yo male, you painted a clear picture of what you saw and felt that evening and you made me sad that the feelings felt by everyone seem to be so rare today when they were so common when I was a young man. People don’t love their neighbors so much anymore, and we’re all diminished because of it.
Marcie - August 14, 2022 2:01 pm
I have a special boy. His name is Charlie. When he’s around, there is magic. Not everyone sees it, but it’s there. He’s pure love and goodness. And God blessed me when I was gifted the job of his mom. Thank you for recognizing special people and sharing it with the world.
Cathy W Moss - August 14, 2022 2:26 pm
Thank you for spreading love today. We have a special boy in our family. We call him the Mayor because he greets people wherever he goes and always says “by” upon leaving. He wears a smile almost all the time. Yes, the world is upside down but you remind us that there are still good people everywhere. You have a ministry and I am grateful for you.
Tawanah Fagan Bagwell - August 14, 2022 9:49 pm
Yes, Sean, your writing is a ministry!
Jan - August 14, 2022 2:30 pm
I needed this — after this week’s depressing, mind-boggling news. I needed to be reminded that pure love and decency abide!
Barbara - August 14, 2022 3:12 pm
Glad you paid attention and shared the gift it brought
pattymack43 - August 14, 2022 4:23 pm
Thank you for sharing the love we humans are capable of giving to one another!🙏❤️😊
Kathy - August 14, 2022 4:33 pm
Love this positive story. Thank you
Bill E. - August 14, 2022 5:32 pm
Nice observation of people….happy people…
LIN ARNOLD - August 14, 2022 5:39 pm
I’m one of those people, too, that sits alone just to “people watch”. What I’ve found is that there a whole lot more nice, GOOD people out there than there are those that dominate the news. I think there are a lot of politicians in Washington DC that need to go sit alone in a Cracker Barrel and see the REAL people they are supposed to be representing.
Pat, eastern NC - August 14, 2022 6:03 pm
You are that special boy, too. Our lives are richer because of you.
MAM - August 14, 2022 7:10 pm
Thanks, Sean, for the continuing reminder of goodness in our world, and always more goodness than the evil spewed out in the news. May God continue to bless us all.
Shelly - August 14, 2022 8:24 pm
Sean….I just stumbled over your blog. I am glad I did. You are something else! I so have enjoyed your writings….and I’m brand new to them. Thank you.
Sara Pugh - August 14, 2022 8:31 pm
Sean, I ❤️ how you write peoples stories by observation. I love sitting anywhere observing people and guessing their stories and what type person they are. I live In a popular college town where the square is the hub of social interactions occur. It is amazing what you can observe!
1018le - August 14, 2022 8:46 pm
Yep! It’s called LOVE! Thanks for sharing your observations! It’s almost like being there and experiencing what you were experiencing. I warms the heart and makes me smile. 🙂
Linda Moon - August 14, 2022 10:08 pm
Exquisite. May we all pay attention and be changed by it….the specialness of this thing called LIFE.
Mona Betzel - August 15, 2022 2:25 am
A humbling reminder of the beauty of kindness
Slimpicker - August 15, 2022 4:08 am
Reminds me of a new song by Rory Feek and his daughter Indians, “Pap what if”.
Marjean - August 15, 2022 11:10 am
Beautiful, Sean. As a former special education teacher, this one touched my heart. Bless that boy and his special father!
This column makes me think of Mr Holland’s Opus. If you don’t catch the reference, watch the movie again.
Blessings to you, Sean. Glad to have you in Birmingham! Welcome to the Magic City. 😊
Couldn’t get my website to post: marjeanbrooks.com
CHARALEEN WRIGHT - August 15, 2022 6:18 pm
Fred Frederick - August 17, 2022 2:36 pm
When you feel it, it feels so good!