I once swore that I would never write something like what you’re about to read. In fact, I can’t stand those who talk about what they do with their money.

This story isn’t about how I got four hundred dollars—even though I did. Four hundred big ones. Unexpected.

Anyway, I want to say this beforehand:

I once swore that I would never write something like what you’re about to read. In fact, I can’t stand those who talk about what they do with their money.

But then, it WASN’T my money. So, why not.

I gave a hundred bucks to the cable guy. He was as country as fiddlesticks. He showed up with his wife. I saw them working in my yard, burying cable together.

“She works with me,” he explained. “She’s a good worker. We can take twice the jobs as a team, make twice the money. I love her so much.”

I shook his hand. He could feel the folded paper bill in my palm. I wished him a Merry Christmas.

The workman across the street got a hundred, too. He was repairing my neighbor’s sewage line. The brown, foul-smelling water puddled around him, saturating his jeans with stink.

I recognized him. We used to work together in a past life. We shook hands.

I asked how he’s been.

“Got four kids, man,” he said. “A good wife, good job, great benefits. And after awhile, you get used to coming home, smelling like $#!* water.”

How about that.

I left a hundred in his toolbox.

And the old man in Pensacola, standing on Cervantes. Cardboard sign. Long beard. He smelled like whiskey and cigarettes.

I rolled down my window at the stoplight. I handed him a folded, green paper-football. I started to drive away.

“Hey, sir!” he yelled. “Think you accidentally gave me a hundred.”

“No,” I said. “Someone accidentally gave it to me.”

He shouted a God-bless-you while I drove away.

And the waitress. I ordered eggs, bacon, toast. What I got was a patty melt. I ate it, no complaints.

She realized her mistake later. She buried her face in her hands and said, “Oh GOD! I’m SO SORRY! It’s been a REALLY long week.”

I left two fifties.

Listen. I really shouldn’t have written this. What am I looking for, a pat on the back? Big damn deal, some guy gets a rebate in the mail and gives a few bucks away.

That’s not why I’m writing you. I’m telling you this because a long time ago my mother was late on our rent. And it was Christmas.

And since landlords aren’t God’s sweetest angels, we were—how do I put this— up a very stinky creek without a canoe.

We visited a Wednesday night church service and sat in the back row. My mother said a prayer. She seemed sick. She seemed ashamed.

After service, a man stopped her in the parking lot. I’ll never forget him.

He’d been friends with my late daddy, once. He asked how we were doing. He took us to dinner. My mother smiled and told him lies, and how life was marvelous.

Afterward, he shook my hand. I felt something in his palm. He winked at me.

Four folded hundred-dollar bills.

So if you’ve read this far, I’m sorry you had to wade through it. But then, this wasn’t written for you—not completely.

Mister Bobby, if you’re out there:

I’ve been meaning to thank you for dinner for a long time.

You’ll never know what it meant to us.


  1. Shana - December 14, 2017 11:04 am

    Bless you and all the Mr. Bobbys out there. Merry Christmas!

  2. Rachel Lindsey - December 14, 2017 11:14 am

    Crying again. Sean you make me very emotional and very proud. Proud of you, proud for everyone that knows you , hears you or reads you. As for me; yes I’m proud too and always feel blessed after my morning read. Thank you

  3. Mary C - December 14, 2017 12:36 pm

    You can’t out give God, but you can be His vessel to meet the needs of others.

  4. Carolyn - December 14, 2017 1:09 pm

    A lovely story, but I take exception to your blanket statement about landlords. I have several times waived my tenant’s rent when times were hard for her…. especially in December when she wants to buy Christmas presents for her grandchildren. Sorry… you said you don’t like to hear what people do with their money. I feel certain there are many other landlords who do the same.

  5. Suzanne Hinman - December 14, 2017 1:14 pm

    Shivers reading your wonderful “pay it forward” story…merry Christmas Sean!

  6. Judy - December 14, 2017 1:27 pm

    I am thankful you wrote this story. I am thankful you used your “accidental money” well. I am thankful for the example you place before each us because you just showed that it is truly More Blessed to Give than to receive.

  7. Jack - December 14, 2017 2:04 pm

    There is so much joy in giving!

  8. Sonja R. Wells - December 14, 2017 2:09 pm

    I love the way you are!!! God is faithful!!!

  9. Brian Heinz - December 14, 2017 2:10 pm

    The people we meet on the road of life burn an image of love on our hearts we never forget. God uses us when the need arises so let your self be a vessel and reap the love of the Savior.

  10. Brian Heinz - December 14, 2017 2:12 pm

    Again Thank You Sean and Merry Christmas

  11. Melanie Howell - December 14, 2017 2:30 pm

    It was 1985, I was divorced with two young children, working at McDonald’s and SO poor! I desperately need $25 to pay a bill and there wasn’t a place left to scrape it up from!!! It was Christmas and it was going to be a very skimpy Christmas. My angel was a regular that came through the drive through every morning. Colonel Bud Day gave me a Christmas card. I was so honored to have it because of who he was but when I opened that card and saw $25 I was convinced he was my angel!!!!!!

  12. Laura - December 14, 2017 2:42 pm

    Bless you, Sean. I should say “GOD bless you” and I know that He has from the stories you share. I have longed believed we should pass on our blessings whether it is clothes shared with those in need, money given to a friend or even a stranger in need, lunch for a vet, helping a stranded old man by the roadside. Today’s world is so full of hate and evil that it cheers me and fills my heart with love and joy to hear about stories like you share with us of good people (like you) doing good things. Blessings on Mr Bobby and for your “passing it on”..

  13. Donna J. masmar - December 14, 2017 2:46 pm

    You started my day off beautifully again Sean–thanks and keep sending those inspirations every morn and maybe the world and this country will become civil again.

  14. Marjorie - December 14, 2017 2:58 pm

    You bring joy to my heart. God bless you and yours. Merry Christmas.

  15. Marion Pitts - December 14, 2017 3:09 pm

    Goosebumps! Thanks for sharing.

  16. Frank - December 14, 2017 3:21 pm

    I always wondered what would happen if a writer came along with Carl Sandburg’s heart and William Faulkner’s soul.

    Now I know.

    It was worth the wait!

  17. Roxanne - December 14, 2017 3:38 pm

    The scripture a friend sent me today just supports this wholeheartedly. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” II Corinthians 1:3-4

    You were passing on the comfort that you, yourself had received. And that’s one of the many points of living on this planet.

  18. gayle r tucker - December 14, 2017 3:57 pm

    I am not a religious person but do believe we are all born with a conscious. Some good, some bad. The good ones out number the bad for the most part. Keep paying it forward. Most of us do.

  19. Timothy Heinz - December 14, 2017 3:59 pm

    This compels me to pay it forward. Thank you for writing this.

  20. Nancy Jones - December 14, 2017 4:15 pm

    Sean you are as real as it gets! Tears as I read! Thankful you are my daily read!!

  21. Jack Darnell - December 14, 2017 5:58 pm

    I can’t believe these silly women crying….. but for some reason it is hard to see the screen thru these watery eyes. You are a ‘good-un’ as my dad would say. We are taking my sister out to dinner this evening. I have already decided the waitress get $50. It is Christmas!

  22. Jenny Young - December 14, 2017 6:15 pm

    This sounds so much like my husband. Years ago when we had a preschooler we were sitting in church. He gave me $100 & asked me to slip in the purse of a widow lady we knew. What made it so cool was that she called me the next day & was so overwhelmed that someone had given her the cash she really needed. 🙂 I think she suspected my husband but I just played dumb & was excited with her. We didn’t know just how bad she needed it we just wanted to give it to her.

    There are many, many people who do things like this all the time.

  23. Diane Barr - December 14, 2017 6:57 pm

    You are a great guy Sean. And I believe in Karma too, and in grace, the law of the universe.

  24. Patricia Byers - December 14, 2017 7:22 pm

    In our small town, where everyone knew everyone, there was a couple I had known since I was a small girl. They had gotten old and were not well. Something, came to me, to take them a Christmas card one evening. I didn’t mail it, I simply took it to their house and when she opened the door I inquired about their health which I knew was not good. It would have been odd for me to be at her door, and at that hour, but she knew me since I was a kid.
    She didn’t open it but thanked me for the card. It had held a hundred dollar bill that I felt compelled to put in it, the same as I had felt compelled to go there.
    She called me the next morning, and thanked me. She said she had desperately needed that money for his medicine and didn’t have it. She needed it the next morning. And it came by way of my card and an unexpected visit to her door. Sometimes, we are just compelled to do something. We should listen to these inner thoughts more often. I am so glad I listened.
    I am so glad you did. God Bless You.

  25. Sharon Allemang - December 14, 2017 7:41 pm

    What a wonderful narrative to read just before Xmas!! Bless you & all who help those less fortunate than us, no recognition or Thanx required, Those are true christians and Angels in our world!!

  26. Pat - December 14, 2017 8:46 pm

    Another beautiful story. I am so thankful that my husband and I have finally reached a point in our lives that we are not living paycheck to paycheck and that we can now share our blessings. It feels so good to do that!

  27. elainenkarrh - December 15, 2017 1:24 am

    You just filled up my joy tank today. Thank you,Sean…

  28. unkle kenny - December 15, 2017 3:58 am

    your coon hound can probably scratch her own back but she really apreciates it more when you scratch that back for her. you don’t have to but it makes you both feel better about each other. it’s love.money given away “just cause” you can makes you feel good. sometimes it is a hundred or a ten spot . well done, well written, inspired us all to become a little more generous. take care. uk

  29. Penn Wells - December 15, 2017 4:05 am

    My only addition, covered in such a nuanced manner in “Gifts”….is a quote from French playwright Pierre Corneille, who said “the manner in which it is given is worth more than the gift.” Something I know I need to be more aware of…?

  30. Debra - December 15, 2017 4:06 am

    I’m thinking it’s not the first $$$$ you’ve given and won’t be the last. You’re a good guy, Sean. Merry Christmas

  31. Deborah Jones - December 15, 2017 10:19 pm

    I have never left a comment, which is selfish, since I enjoy your posts so much. You always stir my emotions . Being such a big crybaby, you most often than not leave me in tears. I share many of your columns on Facebook, as I did this one. Whether you know it or not, you surely bless many people each day. Thank you for that, and I hope and pray you have a very merry Christmas.

  32. Sandra Smith - December 16, 2017 3:42 am

    You know why they tell us, ” it is better to give, than to receive” ?
    Because it IS !
    and, I don’t have to tell you how I know…that’s not important…but, I KNOW !!!
    Merry Christmas !

  33. Wendy - December 16, 2017 9:46 pm

    Years ago on a flight from Birmingham to San Antonio, I sat beside a recent high school graduate who was on her way to begin Air Force training. She was so obviously frightened to be away from home & family. As we left the baggage area, I slipped the $100 bill I’d kept stashed away for emergencies into her hand. I don’t know her name or whatever became of her… and I’ve never told this to anyone before now. But following others’ comments & Sean’s inspiration, I just did. Please keep my secret.

    And TYSM, Sean, for another beautiful story!

    • Melanie Howell - December 16, 2017 9:53 pm

      Awwww! I know she appreciated it. They sure don’t get paid much their first few months. I remember one of the first things our son bought when he was able to buy anything was a Snickers bar.

  34. Tawanah Fagan Bagwell - December 18, 2017 12:06 am

    I loved this one and all the others you wrote too. My husband has been known to give money to people who need it too and the blessing really does come back to him.

  35. Amy - December 18, 2017 1:53 pm

    This is my father through and through. He gives to people anonymously, he gives to people when they make even a slight comment about being in need, he gives to people who he knows will never pay him back – he does so with a cheerful heart and the perspective that his deed is done in the hopes that those he gave to will pass it on to someone else at some point. Your article brought tears to my eyes while reading. Good tears. Happy tears. Thankful tears that there are more people like my father out there.


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