I stand behind them in the checkout aisle. It is a youth group, or maybe it’s a class trip. Either way, I know that they are excited to be on vacation because one boy actually shouts, “I’M SO EXCITED TO BE ON VACATION!”
The boy who hollers is using crutches, the kind that clasp to his arms. He is using a cheerful voice and from what I gather, he is excited to be on vacation.
The adult chaperone who accompanies the kids looks stressed out. There is a look adults often wear when they are responsible for large groups of kids. It’s a look I can spot from a mile away because I have been a youth-group chaperone before.
Going anywhere with a large clot of young people is a test of your humanity. You can not walk into a grocery store without kids running the aisles like rabid cats.
And when you finally find the miniature heathens, usually they’re doing something like playing a game of Butt Swat in the produce section. The rules of Butt Swat are unclear to me, but apparently the game involves stalks of celery being used as weapons.
But these kids aren’t like that. They are happy kids, and well-behaved. They wear matching yellow T-shirts, and they smile a lot.
I talk to Peter, who is head chaperone.
“We’re from Atlanta,” he says. “We’re here at the beach for a vacation, these kids deserve a little fun.”
Peter explains that they are a homeschool group of kids who all have something in common.
“Most of our kids are differently abled,” says Peter. “We don’t like the term ‘disabled.’ We teach our kids not to use it.”
A few in the group have cerebral palsy, another has a congenital heart defect, others face mental health issues, and some children have mild autism.
“We’re a wild and crazy group is what we are,” adds Peter. “Any day we avoid burning down the house is a good day.”
I notice other people in our checkout line, too. The man behind me, for instance, holds his infant daughter. He tells me he is from North Carolina. He is in the military, and he hasn’t had a vacation since he can remember.
His wife is at home and had to work this week.
“She’s a nurse” he says. “She had to bail on us, last minute. Someone’s gotta earn a living.”
In another cashier line is a family of Russians. At least I think they are a family. I know they are Russian because I speak a little Russian.
I can say, “spasibo,” which means “thank you.” And “lokot” which means “elbow.”
I hear “spasibo” a thousand times among the group. From what I can tell—and this is only a guess—they are all contributing money for groceries.
I count four women, three men, and three children. They are all young, and each of them, except for the kids, wears a work uniform. One man appears to work at Burger King, another at a gas station.
When it is time for them to checkout, the family makes a pile of cash on the counter. The cashier tells them that they are a few dollars short. So one of the children digs into his pocket and takes care of it.
“Spasibo,” everyone says to the kid.
The boy in front of me, the one with crutches, asks where I’m from.
I point to the east wall. “I live a few miles down the road.”
“Really? I wish I lived somewhere with a beach.”
“Not during spring break you don’t.”
“I’m excited to be on vacation.”
“You mentioned that.”
Something about this kid makes me smile. I don’t know what it is.
He tells me he has cerebral palsy. Then he says, “I see the world from a different point of view than other people because of my CP.”
I ask him what he means.
“Well, like, you know, you probably think it’s just no big deal going walking, but not me. Walking is so fun. I can’t always walk good because sometimes my legs get spastic and stuff, but when I can it’s fun.”
“Yeah,” adds a teenage girl who also has mild cerebral palsy. “Walking is the best.”
We are interrupted by loud voices behind us.
The man from North Carolina is on a video phone call. He is waving his baby’s hand at the cellphone. “We miss you, Mommy!” he says.
The Russians are pushing a cart together, laughing. A kid is riding on the front. And none of them are playing on phones.
The cashier finishes ringing up groceries and reads the total to the chaperones.
The boy on crutches pays the cashier. The chaperones don’t offer to help, even though it appears to be a struggle for the boy.
When the boy finishes paying, the cashier hands the boy change, and if you’ve ever seen a kid more proud, I wouldn’t believe it.
The group of teenagers leaves the store. Some are running. Some are skipping. And I can see the boy with crutches walking through the parking lot on his own two legs.
I know he’s happy because I overhear him say, “I’m excited to be on vacation.”
And I’m excited for him, too.
Karen Greatrix - July 26, 2019 7:00 am
Thanks you for reminding us about the really important things in life.
Michael Bishop - July 26, 2019 7:30 am
Jay Southerland - July 26, 2019 8:56 am
You have a gift. You writing is awesome, but your heart is more awesome. Thanks for sharing your gifts with us. They are an awesome way to start the day. God Bless. And, I am going on a short vacation today, “And, I will be SO EXCITED TO BE ON VACATION.”
DiAnn Borasky - July 26, 2019 11:56 am
Sean, I think you mean CF to be CP. CYSTIC FIBROSIS affects the lungs and CEREBRAL PALSEY affects the muscles causing spasms in the legs, etc.
Keloth Anne - July 26, 2019 12:47 pm
Love the term “differently abled” verses the term ‘disabled.’ We should all use it.
Thank you for brightening my Friday morning ???
Rae Carson - July 26, 2019 1:00 pm
I love how you see the Good wherever you are. It’s a smiling example of what we all can be doing to lift our spirits and share the positivity around us.
Connie Havard Ryland - July 26, 2019 1:08 pm
Dang it Sean. You’re the only person who can make me smile and cry at the same time. Thank you for sharing your take on the world. Love and hugs.
Shirley Gilliland - July 26, 2019 3:48 pm
Mike Baxley - July 26, 2019 1:12 pm
Great story. We take so much for granted. Enjoy your stories. Thanks for the lift you give me with stories like this… Let me know of any visits/book signings you’ll be doing in the Crestview FL area. Would love to meet you.
Joe Patterson - July 26, 2019 1:22 pm
Thanks again need to be thankful for the things we all take for granted
Joyce - July 26, 2019 1:31 pm
You set such a wonderful example as a kind human being, Sean. We all could learn a lot from you! If only we all noticed each other the way you notice those around us, we’d be a much kinder, more in-tuned nation.
John Humphries - July 26, 2019 1:38 pm
Sean – thanks again for another wonderful story. One quick aside, as a parent of a child with CF… Cystic Fibrosis is primarily a disease of the lungs and digestive system and has nothing to do with how muscles function. I suspect the children had Cerebral Palsy. CP is the name for a group of disorders that affect a person’s ability to move and maintain balance and posture. It’s a common mistake for two very different diseases.
As a parent, you wouldn’t want to have your child diagnosed with either of these diseases, but my experience has been that the hardships endured by living with CF and CP produce some pretty extraordinary young people, just as you witnessed in that checkout aisle, and that I get to see every day in my daughter.
Connie - July 26, 2019 1:43 pm
greatgrams6Pat Edlund - July 26, 2019 2:40 pm
Love reading you daily, thanks for sharing!
Rise Marxer - July 26, 2019 3:01 pm
Love reading your stories – make you feel happy all day. Thank you
Steve Winfield - July 26, 2019 3:04 pm
Just excellent observations. We all see these things daily. I don’t understand those that are annoyed. Myself, like you, am happy that they’re happy. I always “God bless them” under my breath. I have no doubt that it helps. We take so much for granted. Love you every day!
Linda Moon - July 26, 2019 3:41 pm
You are very astute to “gather” that the boy on crutches is EXCITED TO BE ON VACATION! You, Sean, have an empathy for humanity like very few people do. I wish there were more like you. We are all “differently abled”. Thank you for noticing us!
sholmes53 - July 26, 2019 3:53 pm
Thank you, Sean! I only know English or I would tell you in other languages too!
Shelton A. - July 26, 2019 5:00 pm
“…like a herd of rabid cats.” Yep, that’s we were. I was never in your shoes, but when I look back on it, that’s what we were…I did a summer camp every year of junior high. I ask forgiveness from everyone I may have given a migraine. I laughed so hard! I appreciate you telling us about the kids-I hope their vacation is exciting.
p.s. We never played “Butt Swat.”
Ann - July 26, 2019 7:10 pm
A beautiful visual story ?
Maxine - July 27, 2019 12:28 am
I do love you Sean, no way around it. You ARE a GOOD man.
Jody - July 27, 2019 12:29 am
I have taken groups of young adults, with a variety of challenges, to the gulf for vacations. The joy of experiencing the waves and sand, eating at AJ s and going out on a day trip fishing and then eating the catch of the day was beyond wonderful. We did this for many years. Thanks for a great story❤️
throughmyeyesusa - July 27, 2019 12:54 am
I wish my wheelchair-confined son saw himself as “differently-abled”, instead of “damaged merchandise “.
It’s heartbreaking to be the mother of a disabled person who spent the his first 22 years in the perfect body you gave him. Worse when he’s shamed by his disability.
Perhaps I can get him to read your lovely insight into these charming ‘differently’-abled’ kids!!
Stuart - July 27, 2019 2:55 am
God bless them all.
I have a 10 yr. old on arm crutches (arthrogryposis). He has such a joyful spirit. Everybody loves to be around him. These kids ARE special.
You realize how much you take for granted when you watch them struggle for the seemingly smallest successes.
Estelle - July 29, 2019 10:16 pm
Thank you for your words. They build up, not tear down. Thank you for noticing all kinds of people.