Montgomery, Alabama—it was late afternoon, the grocery store was busy. It was a big weekend, hurried customers played demolition derby with shopping carts.
I saw two young men shopping together. Their basket was overflowing with bachelor food. Microwave dinners, hotdogs, potato chips, Michelob Ultra, spray cheese.
The youngest man was wearing cargo shorts. His right leg was disfigured. Below the knee, his leg was mostly shinbone without any visible muscle, covered in scars.
I followed the men around the supermarket because I am a writer, and writers are odd people.
When they reached the self-checkout lane, I was a few customers behind them in line.
An old man approached the men. They had a brief conversation. I tried to listen to their words but their voices were too quiet.
The only thing I heard the elderly man say was: “Where were you stationed?”
“Afghanistan,” the young man answered. Also, I heard the words, “ambush,” “explosion,” and “physical therapy.”
When the young men finished scanning items, I will never forget what happened next. The old man removed his wallet and swiped his credit card.
The young men tried to stop him, but they were too slow. The man replaced his wallet, then winked at them and said, “You snooze, you lose, fellas.”
I can still see that old man when I close my eyes. Some things stick with you, I guess.
Just like the time I saw an elderly woman in Franklin, Tennessee. Her car wouldn’t start. Three men from inside the gas station rushed to help her.
They were large men with long beards, dirty clothes, and work boots. They crawled over her car until they figured out the problem beneath the hood.
“It’s her serpentine belt!” one man finally shouted.
That was all it took. They leapt into their truck and left. After a few minutes, they returned with a new belt from the auto parts store.
The woman tried to pay them, but they refused. I heard one of the men say:
“Hey, I know how you could repay me, you could let me take you to dinner, ma’am.”
It was only a joke. This woman was old enough to remember when Colonel Sanders was still a private. But it made her laugh.
A few weeks ago, someone wrote me about an old man in ratty clothes who was asking for money outside Walmart.
He wasn’t there long when a man wearing a Navy-blue uniform came striding toward him. The old man got spooked. He darted away when he saw the uniform.
But the man in uniform was not there to run the man off. He was a fire-medic. He called after the elderly man, “Sir! Don’t leave! You’re not in trouble! Please wait!”
The old man stopped. The fireman handed him a white plastic bag full of Chinese take-out. He asked the old man how he was feeling, and if he had any health problems.
The old man shook his head.
Then, the fireman handed the man a business card. “If you ever need any help, sir, come find us, we’ll hook you up.”
They tell me the old man ate fried rice and sesame chicken with both hands until he was wearing most of it.
Anyway, yesterday morning was a beautiful sunrise. I woke up early. I watched the colors over the highway. I drove to meet my cousin at a breakfast joint.
The restaurant parking lot was full. Inside were truck drivers, young professionals, families, and working-class men getting a caffeine fix.
At the table behind my cousin were men in police uniforms. They were quiet, middle-aged men with plates full of bacon.
They were interrupted by a small blonde girl who approached their table and said, “‘Scuse me, are you guys policemen?”
The men exchanged a look. “We certainly are,” one officer said.
“I like policemen,” she said.
She was as cute as a duck in a hat.
The officer said, “Do you wanna be our deputy, miss?”
She smiled big enough to rupture a muscle.
One officer removed a plastic badge from his pocket. He pinned it on the girl’s shirt. Then, he told her to hold her right hand up.
He swore her in, officially. The girl’s mother took a picture with a cellphone.
The officer added, “If you ever need us, darling, we’re always here to help you.”
When it was time to pay our bill, my cousin whispered to our waitress, “I wanna pay for those officers’ breakfasts, ma’am.”
Our waitress only laughed at us.
“There sure are a lotta good folks in this world,” she said. “You’re the third guy this morning who offered to do that. Sorry, but another customer beat you to it.”
You snooze, you lose.
Karen Greatrix - February 17, 2019 6:43 am
Thank you, after a day of bad news, I really needed your story.
Lucretia Jones - February 17, 2019 7:19 am
Sean, your story makes me proud to be born and reared in Alabama, the United States of America.
Cathi - February 17, 2019 7:59 am
And that’s the story I needed to read at way too early on a Sunday morning. And the line “she was as cute as a duck in a hat” is still making me grin.
Edna B. - February 17, 2019 10:29 am
Oh wow, I love today’s stories. This will keep me grinning all morning. Thank you Sean. I hope you have a fantabulous day. Hugs, Edna B.
Connie Havard Ryland - February 17, 2019 10:39 am
Heart full. There are good people in the world. Most of us never see them. I’m thankful that you do, and that you share them with us.
Naomi - February 17, 2019 12:28 pm
I really needed this morning. When I woke up this morning, in the middle of saying my prayers, I started wondering about where the CHURCH is when it comes to helping people in need. Are they building bigger buildings, getting new carpeting, bigger chandeliers, a new jet, car, swimming pool, cruise to Alaska or Hawaii for their pastors? If you ask a church member how their church is doing, they will usually say something like, “We just installed a new chandelier or we got new carpeting”. My husband is a retired preacher who never had any of these things. Most of the time he had to have a full-time job in addition to pastoring a church. One time he only had $1 to put gas in his car. I’m not complaining because God has been good to us. My husband is also a retired AF Lt Col and when we go out, he usually wears a cap our son gave him with “Retired AF Veteran” on it. One time when we were getting ready to pay our bill at a restaurant that we frequented, our waitress told us that someone had paid for our meal. They had already left so we couldn’t thank them. We were able to pay for our own meal but, evidently, they were just showing their appreciation for his military service.
Janie F. - February 17, 2019 12:29 pm
Kristine Wehrheim - February 17, 2019 12:40 pm
There are still good folks out there ?
dkbfox - February 17, 2019 12:51 pm
Good one to share with friends. Thanks for the inspiring words.
Jerenell - February 17, 2019 2:13 pm
Thank You For Making Me Feel Good About America Today!
Karen - February 17, 2019 2:29 pm
Thank you, Sean. You inspire us to take care of others.
Jack Darnell - February 17, 2019 2:35 pm
You have cost me a lot of money over the past year, but I love it. All the good folk are not in Alabama and Florida, There are some good ones all over the world. The News just seems to hide them…. But thanks for exposing some of those troosps
Amy Morissette - February 17, 2019 2:46 pm
I love your stories, Sean! This was a great one! Thanks!
Steve Welch - February 17, 2019 3:16 pm
In the words of Tom Cruise “you just make me want to be a better person.” One of my friends said he thinks you make some of these stories up. One, I do not believe him. Two, even if you do, I do not care, they are still great. Three, he has to be an idiot, he pulls for Auburn!
Melanie - February 17, 2019 3:20 pm
Police Officers, Soldiers, Firefighters, Seniors ❤️
Helen - February 17, 2019 5:15 pm
Stories like yours give me hope that there is more good in this world than bad. You are a wonderful writer. Thank you! 🙂
Connie Pritchett - February 17, 2019 6:38 pm
It’s a beautiful world if you look in the right places. Thanks, Sean.
Donnie - February 17, 2019 7:12 pm
Just beautiful! Tears in my eyes and a smile in my face. Have a great week. ?
pat - February 17, 2019 8:33 pm
Carolyn Lloyd - February 17, 2019 9:53 pm
Beautiful story nice to know we still have some fabulous people in this country
Lynda - February 17, 2019 10:28 pm
Thanks Sean! You have given me hope in humanity after I was about to lose it.
Shelton A. - February 18, 2019 2:48 pm
Angels of many kinds everywhere…thank God for them.
Sherri - February 21, 2019 1:53 am
Funny I would read this tonight, I tried to pay for the police car in front of me at Chick-fil-a and was told that Police Officers always eat free at Chick-fil-a (at least in Huntsville)! Love all your posts!
Karen Bethea - March 17, 2019 5:00 pm
Seven guys in U.S.Army uniform in a Chinese Restaurant……hubby is retired Army – paid for ALL of their meal. Christmas a year ago -Chinese take out this time – saw all the EMT guys for our North Alabama County of Limestone County – didn’t care how many – was their Christmas get together – paid for their meal….ALWAYS take my Aldi buggy to a handicapped accessible spot or give it to someone getting one-so many ways to pay it forward…
Patricia - March 17, 2019 6:12 pm
Thanks for reminding me to be good and that good does exist in this sometimes sad world. And that goodness is shared by angels?
Janie Gentry - July 11, 2021 11:51 am
On the road from Polk City, Florida to Tennessee. This is what I needed to read this morning.