He hugged me one more time. His mother took his arm, they walked away. The boy walks with a pronounced limp, holding his mother for balance. And I can’t quit thinking about him.

He was tall, lean, and young. When he approached me, he hugged me. Then, his mother hugged us both. A three-person club sandwich.

He must’ve been a foot taller than I was. His voice squeaked with adolescence. His skin was freckled. He had a long neck.

He recognized me.

“I liked your books, sir,” he said, through a nervous stutter.

Sir? No way. Such titles are reserved for men who wear penny loafers when fishing.

“I read all your books when I was in the hospital,” the boy said. “I kinda got to know you, and it was kinda like we were friends.”

His mother tells me his story. It’s a long one, and it’s not mine to repeat. He has the determination of a saint, and a long road ahead of him. He suffers more than other kids his age. And he might not survive his struggle.

Before he walked away, he told me: “I list ten new things I love every day. I write’em on paper. My dad told me to do that.”

He tapped his finger against his head. “Gotta keep on thinking ‘bout good things I love. What kinda things do you love?”

I was rendered mute. I couldn’t seem to find words. I noticed a large moon-shaped scar beneath his hair. I tried to say something, anything, but I didn’t.

He hugged me one more time. His mother took his arm, they walked away. The boy walked with a pronounced limp, holding his mother for balance. And I can’t quit thinking about him.

On the off-chance that he is reading this:

1. I love Mexican food. In fact, I have had a lifelong love affair with it. A Mexican man I used to work with with used to make a dish called “chilaquiles verdes.” Before work, he would fry corn tortillas and scrambled eggs, then crumble enough cotija cheese on top to short-circuit U.S. Congress. This heap of food would be served, covered in green sauce his wife made.

2. I love sweat. I know that sounds bizarre, but if I go too many days without breaking a sweat, I feel like I am not quite human. Yes, this creates more laundry for my wife. Yes, my wife threatens to string me up by my tongue if I change my shirt one more time. But I like sweating.

Once I was in Phoenix, Arizona, on business. A land where sweat evaporates before it accumulates. I didn’t sweat for two weeks. Five minutes in the sun, your skin burns. Ten minutes; you’re Lot’s wife.

3. Stray dogs. Sometimes I go to animal shelters just to visit them. There is an extra special place in my heart for elderly dogs who live in shelters.

4. I like old movies. I don’t go for new movies. I don’t like special effects, blood, realistic explosions, or music that sounds like two chainsaws having a cussing match. I enjoy Bogart, Hepburn, John Wayne, and Shirley Temple.

5. Cheese.

6. Hank Williams. Don Williams. Willie Nelson.

7. Old books that smell like dust and history. I like to hold them in my hand.

8. Love stories. I got an email yesterday from an old friend of mine. He got married to his high-school sweetheart after thirty years of beating around the bush.

9. Old folks. Last week, I met a woman who was one hundred years old. I hugged her neck. She was sipping a glass of wine with dinner. I asked her what the secret to a long life was.

She answered, “Just try not to quit breathing.”

10. You. You might not know this, but I think about you a lot. I know we don’t know each other, but that’s inconsequential—and may I point out, that was a five-syllable word I just used.

We’re probably not that different. Maybe we’re even alike. Maybe sometimes you worry too much. Or sometimes you get so swallowed up with tiny things in life, you wonder if you’re going to make it. Sometimes you wish you had answers.

Lord knows, I don’t have any. But what I DO know:

I know that a wise young man is reading this right now. A tall kid, who told me he is grateful to be alive—no matter how brief his life may be. A kid who told me that every so often, he makes a list on paper, like the one you just read. A list of good things, to remind him of how much he loves breathing.

I wrote this for him.

If for no other reason, to tell him that his name is at the top of another very important list I have going.


  1. Linda - October 3, 2018 6:16 am

    I love you, Sean of the South……just so you know…..

  2. Pamela McEachern - October 3, 2018 6:37 am

    Thank you Sean, You always make us feel important and loved. People so often treat people like they are invisable and that hurts.

    Peace and Love from Birmingham

  3. Cheryl Clem - October 3, 2018 8:54 am

    You amaze me every day. I love your soul. Keep writing.

  4. Steven P Bailey - October 3, 2018 9:43 am


  5. Nancy Thomaston Rogers - October 3, 2018 9:43 am

    I think someone’s mom used to tell them to count their blessings, for as the song says “name them one by one.” Not bad advice. You are my “am blessing” Sean Dietrich.

  6. Bobbie - October 3, 2018 10:39 am

    You, Sean, make my Top Ten, every day. Thank you.

  7. Martha Owens - October 3, 2018 10:58 am

    Very inspiring. Sometimes we become overwhelmed with the ups and downs of life. Messages like your daily writings make us stop and take notice of people and their situation and realize our problems are not unique. Thank you for all you do!

  8. Gerald Cox - October 3, 2018 11:37 am

    You sure that wasn’t a six syllable word?

  9. Rick - October 3, 2018 11:43 am

    You are very special and make my day just a little brighter for knowing you! Thank you for sharing!

  10. Joyce Mullikin - October 3, 2018 12:32 pm

    You would be on my list of things I love. Your heart must be enormous. I love that you take the time to look at people & listen to their stories.

  11. Glenda - October 3, 2018 12:35 pm

    Echo each and every comment above, “You Are My Sunshine” daily, yep it’s not raining in Flawda, the sun is shining, however, reading your kind words just made it a little brighter around here!

  12. Liz Watkins - October 3, 2018 12:36 pm

    WOW! This story was amazing! You amaze me! I sure hope the tall, freckled lean young man reads this! It will make his day! If not, I’m sure he will still write his 10 grateful list, I bet you make his list!
    God Bless
    Liz Watkins

  13. Peggy Savage - October 3, 2018 12:52 pm

    So glad you consider me a,friend…..I think of you as my good morning friend. Such a wonderful way to start the day. You are my morning blessing. ..thank you. .

  14. Carol - October 3, 2018 1:08 pm

    If he didn’t didn’t read this !i know who did!!
    Jesus did and he listens and he has a very long list!!
    Bet he just put a check mark by two more again today !
    He loves it when you Pray for others , and I know you do Sean!
    Love ya!

  15. Robin Espinoza - October 3, 2018 1:21 pm

    I just love your incredible heart! God Bless You! ?❤️?❤️

  16. ac - October 3, 2018 1:25 pm

    Prayers for that wonderful young man.

  17. Sherry G Bourgeois - October 3, 2018 2:10 pm

    Always enjoy your writings, thanks!

  18. BJean - October 3, 2018 2:14 pm

    Love this! God uses you, Sean.

  19. Crystal - October 3, 2018 2:15 pm


  20. Pat - October 3, 2018 3:16 pm

    I love #9 on your list Sean!

  21. MermaidGrammy - October 3, 2018 4:36 pm

    This young man’s life changed when he met you. Perhaps just a little bit; just as mine changes every time I’m blessed by reading your words

  22. Shelton Armour - October 3, 2018 4:43 pm

    Great response…hope the young man reads this. He’ll be pleased.

  23. that's jack - October 3, 2018 4:54 pm

    I like the line, “men who fish in penny loafers!” Only a few people alive know what a penny loafer bees. Just sayin’ you can’t be that old dude! But I still like you! Thanks for the stories….

  24. Diana - October 3, 2018 11:27 pm

    Every day I read your posts and cry – mostly. Your stories grab my heart and make me see life in ways I should have seen but never did. Today I put the young man you wrote about at the top of my list, where he will stay for me. The world needs his kind of courage, his appreciation for life, and his love of ten things every day. Bless you both.

  25. Jones - October 4, 2018 1:49 am

    Yet another story that should be required reading for everyone. God bless you for being such a caring man with a remarkable talent to touch so many lives through your writings.

  26. Charles L. Scott II - October 4, 2018 3:39 am

    HI Sean, 76 years old and holding back the tears on this one, outstanding piece my long distance friend, I’ll keep paying attention to you!

  27. Shannon - October 4, 2018 12:36 pm

    I already have my makeup on, stop making me cry!

  28. Dawn Johnson - October 4, 2018 1:59 pm

    Thank you for sharing ?making my list now

  29. Jo Brooks - October 4, 2018 2:52 pm

    Bless the boy – I wish him the best and hope he will prevail.

    You would like our dogs. All old and from our shelter. They are the best!

  30. Edna B. - October 4, 2018 5:34 pm

    You are definitely very special. For the way you see the good and the hope in everyone you meet, and for visiting the animal shelters. Oh gosh, that did it for me! I love the animals and I worry so for them. You have a wonderful day, hugs, Edna B.

  31. Patricia Gibson - October 5, 2018 6:00 pm

    Amen! Sean, you make my day!!

  32. Sam Salisbury - October 6, 2018 1:54 pm

    Just want to say thank you for your kink thoughts. Sam

  33. Sam Salisbury - October 6, 2018 1:55 pm

    Thanks for you kind thoughts. Always enjoy your work. Sam

  34. Mary - November 28, 2018 11:53 am

    Love this. I have to read your column each morning…early…before I put make up on.

  35. June Gibson - November 28, 2018 1:54 pm

    Sean you have “love” vibes just pouring out. It isn’t an accident that everyone who sees you, loves you. God made you for exactly what you’re doing. You bless many hearts each day. Thank you

  36. unkle Kenny - November 29, 2018 12:17 am

    Sir . that little word that seperates us from the boy we wish we still were. The word that is used to honor us by a person with manners . The word of a boy who I hope lives a long life and someone is called “sir” . uk

  37. Carolyn Skelton - December 4, 2018 2:48 am

    I look forward to reading your stories, and I am always amazed and delighted at how your words touch me, every time, in one way or another. You have a very special gift. The Lord be with you, Sean. And I am a Bapticostal!!


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